Somewhere, Steven Bochco Is Smiling…

In Steven Bochco TV legal dramas—the immortal “Hill Street Blues” was the best of them—everyone was sleeping with everyone else in the judicial and law enforcement system. Police chiefs were having affairs with defense attorneys, prosecutors were having affairs with judges, judges were having affairs with defendants. It was ridiculous, if entertaining, but gave an absurdly misleading impression to the gullible public about the legal system. Later, as Bochco’s star was waning, writer-producer David Kelley continued the myth with his many legal dramas

However, this is not to say that such unethical relationships don’t occasionally occur. Bochco, who died in 2018, would like this story, since he could have written it.

Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission on Tuesday filed a complaint against Coffee County District Judge Christopher Kaminski, alleging that he has been carrying on a romantic relationship with an attorney who frequently practices in his court. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Marshae Jones Case

In case you missed the facts of this instant ethics train wreck a legal case, here they are:

Marshae Jones,  27-years old, was five months pregnant when she attacked female co-worker, Ebony Jemison, 23, in the parking lot of a Dollar Store. The two had a long-standing and bitter rivalry over their romantic designs regarding a man who worked at the same company and who is apparently the father of the unborn child.  Jones  had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense,  Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach. The car taking Jones  to the hospital broke down, delaying a medical response. Paramedics eventually arrived, but the unborn child had been struck by the bullet, and died.

A grand juryindicted Jones for  “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” but chose not to indict Ebony Jemison, who fired the shot. Despite the confusing and incompetent reporting on the case, it is still not certain that prosecutors in Pleasant Grove, Alabama will ultimately prosecute Jones, who according to all reports wanted her baby.  I doubt that they will.  Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, said last week that no decision had yet been made about whether to go to trial, file lesser charges against Jones, or dismiss the case altogether.

“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” her statement said. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”

Observations:

1. The fact that Jemison was not charged should surprise no one, nor does it reasonably affect the ethical and legal issues at issue here. She was attacked. The law of self-defense almost universally allows the use of deadly force when the alternative is sustaining a serious beating.  If one is attacked by a pregnant woman, the response to the attack does not have to be moderated because of the possible consequences to an unborn child. The responsibility for any adverse result to the fetus is completely the expectant mother’s.

2. Thus this headline by ABC and others like it— “Alabama woman charged in fetal death, her shooter goes free”—are inflammatory, misleading and biased journalism, blatantly attempting to take Jones’ side.

3. Alabama law declares a fetus to have the rights of a person from the moment of conception. There is nothing unethical or unreasonable about such a law, whether or not you agree with it. The reverse law, that a fetus/embryo/unborn child has no rights until birth is also ethically and legally defensible. Both cause practical problems and ethical conflicts and dilemmas, as do any compromise positions.

4. As long as a jurisdiction allows abortions within Supreme Court guidelines, there is nothing unethical about the jurisdiction prosecuting someone other than the mother who kills a fetus, intentionally or through negligence. 38 states have laws that classify fetuses as victims in homicide or assault, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Alabama, a “person” includes embryos and fetuses at any stage of development, and the state leads the nation in such prosecutions. Last year, Jessica Lindsey, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to chemical endangerment for using heroin while pregnant. Raven West, a heroin addict who gave birth to a stillborn baby, received a five-year suspended sentence last year. And Alexandra Laird, who gave birth to two children who tested positive for heroin, received two suspended 10-year sentences and access to a treatment program, according to court records.

Regarding those three results: Good…Good…Good. I have no problem with them.

4. The question is, how different is a pregnant woman who starts a parking lot fist fight that precipitates sufficient violence to kill her unborn child from a woman who knowingly ingests toxic substances that harm or kill a fetus? I don’t see a material difference. If not, then why is it unreasonable to prosecute Jones?

5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.

6. Although Alabama is currently challenging Roe v. Wade, this case has nothing to do with its defiant anti-abortion law. I see no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t be charged under the same criminal statute a year ago or five years ago. This episode has just given pro-abortion advocates an opportunity to attack the state and make Jones into a martyr, though she was not seeking an abortion. At about 20 weeks pregnant, Jones was within the range where she could have had an abortion before the new law, so the feminist argument is, I guess, that if you can legally abort an unborn baby, you should also be able to get it shot without any consequences.

Nice.

7. The callousness with which the news media tries to spin stories related to the unborn is striking. Here’s the Washington Post:

“The 27-year-old was five months pregnant when she was involved in a fight that, authorities say, prompted a woman to fire a gun in self-defense. The bullet tore through Jones’s abdomen and caused a miscarriage.”

No, the bullet struck the unborn child and killed it. That’s not a “miscarriage.”

8. Whatever the outcome, Jones caused the death of her unborn child through outrageous, violent and uncivilized behavior, and warrants no sympathy whatsoever.

As always in such stories, her family says that Jones is a saint. Her mother calls her “a fun-loving mom, churchgoing, a hard-working lady,” insisting, “My child just doesn’t bother anybody.”  Except, that is, a woman trying to make time with the father of Jones’ unborn child, in a parking lot, where she engages in a fist fight. Yeah, that Marshae is a responsible, model citizen! How could this happen to her?

9. Her lawyers say, absurdly,

“This young mother was shot in the stomach while five months pregnant and lost her baby as a result. She lost her home to a fire and lost her job. Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”

I know lawyers must defend their client’s zealously, but this is legal demagoguery.  She was shot because of her own criminal actions. She was fired because she attacked a co-worker. She was a “victim of violence” necessitated by her own attack. I don’t know what the fire has to do with anything; the statement just as well might have said, “And she faces painful root canal work due to chronic tooth decay.” Talk about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!

10. I think this is worthy of another poll.

________________________________

Sources: ABC, Washington Post, New York Times

Ruby Tuesday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/2019: Of “Bad Charity,” Fake Headlines, Dumb Atticus, And Being Mean To Mr. Ratburn

Tuesday’s child is full of grace.

Tuesday’s ethics, not so much…

1. The other shoe drops...the New York Times yesterday editorialized against the  generous gift to Morehouse students by billionaire and Ethics Hero Robert F. Smith.  It also took a swipe at Smith himself, whose wealth the Times appears to consider suspect. What the mouthpiece of the Left is lobbying for is Bernie Sanders’ free college for all, meaning that not just billionaires but you and I will all have to pay for inflated tuition at institutions that do not so much teach as indoctrinate (or, in the case of Ohio State and who knows what others, molest).

The wonderful thing about Smith’s gift is that it was a complete surprise. The students had a strong financial motivation not to waste their college years taking useless courses on the Patriarchy of Gas Grilling, and instead had every reason to try to prepare themselves for the workplace. Free college education becomes a privilege and a lark, with no accountability or commitment required.

2. Fake Headline Dept. I have seen this in several places: “Ciara Accepted Into Harvard University’s Prestigious Business School.”  (Ciara is a pop diva, if you care.)

Uh, no, she wasn’t. She is going to attend a  Business of Entertainment, Media and Sports program at the B-school that lasts all of three days. She’ll pay for it, too. Ciara doesn’t have a college degree, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I bet she’ll tell people for the rest of her life that she attended the Business School, just like Bill O’Reilly still says he’s a Harvard grad because he attended the Kennedy School of Government on campus.

Not that a Harvard degree is anything to boast about these days… Continue reading

Our Untrustworthy, Perplexing, Depressing State Legislators

As a passionate supporter of American democracy in both practice and theory, I find the proliferation of ignoramuses, fools and morons among both elected representatives and the voters who allow them to acquire access to the levers of power to be a constant source of discouragement. The old adage about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others is scant consolation, true as it may be. I only tune in to the reliably idiotic goings on at the state legislature level when someone or some news story forces me to take a look, which I anticipate with enthusiasm akin to that I felt toward going down into our scary basement when I was a kid. (OK, up until I moved away at 21. OK, STILL.)

Here are two examples from today….that I know about.

Alabama took another step toward near-total abortion ban legislation, House Bill 314, the “Human Life Protection Act.”  The Republican-supported bill is  in  direct defiance of 1973’s Supreme Court  Roe v. Wade ruling, an obvious gambit to try to get the conservative Roberts court to overturn it. Grandstanding, obstinacy, call it what you will, this bill is futile, foolish, and incompetent. An outright reversal of Roe is not in the cards, not even in the most fevered fantasies of anti-abortion fanatics and pro-abortion absolutists. The new law, if it becomes a law, will be struck down by a the highest Alabama court, and won’t make it to the Supreme Court docket. It’s an illegal law, that’s all. A law reestablishing child labor or repealing female suffrage would have about as much chance of getting the Court’s attention.

If Roe is to be weakened or modified, it will occur incrementally, with the Court ruling on legitimately debatable regulations regarding when a fetus or unborn child qualifies for full Constitutional protection. It is understandable that ordinary, untrained, confused citizens might think that the way to remove established Court precedent is to directly oppose it with a state law, but  that’s because, for most of them, making laws isn’t their job. State legislators, on the other hand, have no excuse but their own lack of preparation for their civic duty, and ignorance. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/27/18: On Bullies, Dogs, Signs, Cheats, And The Worst WWII Movie Ever

Good morning.

1. BOY, is that a lazy and inaccurate movie! As usual, they are playing every war movie they can dig up on Memorial Day weekend. I just watched the tail end of  “The Battle of the Bulge,” the 1965 Cinerama Hollywood portrayal of the decisive 1944 WWII battle in the Ardennes that reminds me of my dad, buried in Arlington National Cemetery, more than any other war film, and not because it was in that battle that my father earned his Silver Star. No, the film reminds me of Dad because he hated it so much. He regarded it as an insult to the veterans who fought the battle, and  a cretinous distortion of history in every way. His name for the movie was “How Henry Fonda Won the Second World War.”

The most striking of the endless misrepresentations in the movie is the absence of snow. The battle’s major feature was that it was fought in freezing, winter conditions, on snow covered terrain sometimes up to two feet deep. Some battle scenes are shown being fought on flat and bare plain, about as distinct from the mountainous, thickly forested territory where the actual battle took place as one could imagine. My father also started complaining during the film, loudly, about the use of modern American tanks to portray the German Tiger tanks.

Former President (and, of course, former Allied Commander) Eisenhower came out of retirement to hold a press conference to denouncing “The Battle of the Bulge” for  its gross  inaccuracies. THAT made my father happy.

2. Funny! But…no, it’s just funny. Scott Campbell, the owner of the Pell City Fitness gym in Pell City, Alabama,  put up a sign that says “tired of being fat and ugly? Just be ugly!” City officials told him to take down the sign or be fined, saying it is too big and needs a permit, but other business owners told the local news media that they have never heard of the ordinance the city is citing being enforced. The suspicion is that Campbell is being singled out because some have complained that the sign is “insensitive.” No, it’s just funny…

This is the ethical problem with excessively restrictive laws, rules and regulations that are not consistently enforced. Prosecution can be used for ideological and partisan discrimination. Not only is the sign benign, it is not even original: that same language is on fitness company ads all over the country. So far, it looks like the community is supporting Pell and that the city will back down, but this is Alabama. Call me pessimistic, but I doubt the sign would be allowed to stand for long in Washington State or California if an ordinance could be found to justify pulling it down.

The First Amendment dies in increments. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2017: Roy Moore Lost. Good.

Good Morning, y’all.

1 Stating the obvious that a lot of people won’t have the integrity to admit is obvious. Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the special U.S. Senate election in super-conservative Alabama. This is solely because Moore, as Ethics Alarms discussed back in September, is such a horrible candidate that even Luther Strange, the corrupt Republican  he replaces (appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat) would be a better choice. But literally anyone would. Moore is among the few candidates on earth whom to block from a position of power I would vote for Hillary Clinton, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump. We have a game at our house called “What candidate would make you vote for Roy Moore?” So far, he has beaten the shambling zombie of Richard Speck.

And Roy Moore lost by a little more than one percentage point in Alabama.

The news media is already spinning this as significant. Yes, it is significant: it means that about half of Alabama voters (and two-thirds of the whites who voted) are not up to the intellectual challenges of democracy, and the other half are at least able to recognize the unacceptable dangers of putting a cretinous, racist, homophobic theocrat in high elective office. Whoop-de-doo. It is not a “rejection of Steve Bannon.” It is not a “rebuke for Donald Trump,”  either. CNN’s openly anti-Trump hack Jim Accosta on Twitter: “Source close to WH: “It’s devastating for the president… this is an earthquake… Virginia but on steroids… the president has egg on his face” because of Bannon.” Trump opposed Bannon, Coulter, Palin and the other hard right jerks by endorsing Strange. This loss is only “devastating” to Trump in the eyes of those who want everything to be devastating for Trump. Will journalists ever go back to realizing that quoting an anonymous source like that as news is completely unethical and undermines trust in reporters? I know Jim Accosta won’t. It’s also interesting how many news reports used that term “earthquake,” especially since it is usually reserved for shock election landslides and ideological upheaval. What a coincidence!

Where was I? Oh…right…

It does not mean that “Alabama has turned blue.” It means that there are some candidates so incompetent and untrustworthy, and who represent such an insult to voters, that they can’t win no matter who runs against them.

2. Polls? We don’t need no stinking polls! So both the poll that said Moore was way ahead and the one that said Jones was way ahead were wrong. The polls that said it would be close were right. Who needed a poll to tell them that? Fake research.

3. Why didn’t Trump didn’t collude with God to rig the election? Roy Moore refuses to concede, and says that “God is always in control.”

What an embarrassment to people of faith, Alabama, Republicans,  conservatives, judges and homo sapiens he is! Continue reading

My Last Ethics Post About Roy Moore

I hope.

Unless he loses, and then my post, in its entirety, will read, “Good!”

The Republican Party reversed its previously signaled course this week, and appeared to be supporting the Senate candidacy of Roy Moore. This has been greeted by Democrats, the leftward pundits and news media as the equivalent of the GOP endorsing Jeffrey Daumer. “This is the end of the Republican Party!” I have read, in various forms. meanwhile, the predictable feckless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also reversed himself. Once he said that Moore would not be seated if elected,  said he believes Moore’s accusers and called for the candidate to step aside. Now he’s saying it’s up to Alabama voters to decide. “The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate,” McConnell said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. “It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in. The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”

Observations:

  • The Republican Party had an obligation not to endorse (or run) Moore before a single accusation regarding his fondness for teenage girls surfaced. He was already unfit for office; it wold be unethical to support him if he had the personal life of Pat Boone.

If the party somehow decides that stalking shopping malls for dates and persuading mothers to pimp out 14 year olds was nothing to get upset about in a U.S. Senator, there would still be  the fact that Moore doesn’t believe in the rule of law, the Constitution, Equal Justice or the Bill of Rights, and that he’s an anti-gay bigot. These are more disqualifying than any sexual misconduct he engaged in 40 years ago. After all, I strongly suspect that 20-30, maybe more, U. S. Senators have engaged in past sexual misconduct that would make their continued presence in the Senate unpalatable. I don’t think any of them have acted or considered acting as Moore has, repeatedly violating the hierarchy of authority in the government, and arguing that that God has veto power over the Supreme Court. Mike Huckabee, at his worst, has said similar things, but he’s a talking head now; I can’t envision him actually defying a court order.

  • As I wrote back when the GOP had a chance to refuse to nominate Donald Trump, a political party is charged with maintaining the integrity of the government and our democracy, which means only offering for election candidates for office who are at least minimally qualified and trustworthy. That is a party’s duty: not just to win elections, but to win them with candidates of whom it can be reasonably and objectively said  will serve the nation with honor and competence. That can’t be said of Roy Moore, and it never could.

To a great extent, all the focus on his teen dates obscure the real problem with his candidacy. Since a majority of Alabama Republicans don’t believe Moore’s accusers, this has helped him. Continue reading