Tag Archives: Alan Dershowitz

( PSSST! The Supreme Court Just Unanimously Pointed Out That The Courts Blocking The Trump Temporary Travel Ban Were Playing Partisan Politics, Not Objectively And Ethically Doing Their Jobs)

As many predicted (including me), the Supreme Court unanimously slappped down the lower court injunctions based on claims that the Trump temporary travel restrictions on six Muslim countries were unconstitutional, writing,

But the injunctions reach much further than that: They also bar enforcement of §2(c) against foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all. The equities relied on by the lower courts do not balance the same way in that context. Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national. And the courts below did not conclude that exclusion in such circumstances would impose any legally relevant hardship on the foreign national himself. See id., at 762 (“[A]n unadmitted and nonresident alien . . . ha[s] no constitutional right of entry to this country”). So whatever burdens may result from enforcement of §2(c) against a foreign national who lacks any connection to this country,they are, at a minimum, a good deal less concrete than the hardships identified by the courts below.
At the same time, the Government’s interest in enforcing §2(c), and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States. Indeed, EO–2 itself distinguishes between foreign nationals who have some connection to this country, and foreign nationals who do not, by establishing a case-by-case waiver system primarily for the benefit of individuals in the former category. See, e.g., §§3(c)(i)–(vi). The interest in preserving national security is “an urgent objective of the highest order.” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1, 28 (2010). To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.

…The Government’s application to stay the injunction with respect to §§6(a) and (b) is accordingly granted in part. Section 6(a) may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Nor may §6(b); that is, such a person may not be excluded pursuant to §6(b), even if the 50,000 person cap has been reached or exceeded. As applied to all other individuals, the provisions may take effect.

Got that?

“To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.” Continue reading

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The Comey Testimony, Part II

[Part I is here]

Now let’s look at some direct quotes from James Comey’s testimony: 

1. “Even though I was appointed to a ten-year term, which congress created in order to underscore the importance of the FBI being outside of politics and independent, I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all. And on May 9th, when I learned I had been fired for that reason, I immediately came home as a private citizen. But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president that I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the remaining six years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me. Including our current attorney general. And had learned I was doing a great job. And that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI work force. So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation. And learned, again, from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation. I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly, that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray. That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence In its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them and I’m so sorry the American people were told them. I worked every day at the FBI to help make that great organization better. As a help, because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There are no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization’s great strength is that its value and abilities run deep and wide. The FBI will be fine without me. The FBI’s mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the constitution of the United States. I will deeply miss being part of that mission, but this organization and its mission will go on long beyond me and long beyond any particular administration. I have a message before I close for the — for my former colleagues of the FBI. First I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent. And now to my former colleagues, If I may, I am so sorry I didn’t get the chance to say good bye to you properly. It was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the FBI family and I will miss it for the rest of my life. Thank you for standing watch, thank you for doing so much good for this country. Do that good as long as ever you can. And senators, I look forward to your questions.”

Observations: This entire statement is unworthy of the emphasis that has been placed on it by the wildly spinning news media, The key piece of information to frame the entire episode is  “I understood that I could be fired by a president for any reason or for no reason at all.” Comey also presumably understood that a sub-fact within that understanding is that he could be told some of the reasons he was fired, no reasons, or the reasons the President felt like talking about. He was told he was doing a great job and then fired? Welcome to the work force. Telling an employee that he is doing a great job when he isn’t may be good management, usually isn’t, but is still well within the range of management discretion, and certainly not illegal.

Comey said that he also concerned that the President was saying that firing “had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.” As we learn later, the President was not being targeted in that investigation, and we know that he regards it as a politically motivated effort to distract and derail his administration and its agenda. There was nothing sinister about the President’s desire that the investigation go away as quickly as possible. I would argue that he has an obligation to do whatever he can to speed it along. If he didn’t trust Comey’s judgment—and who would?—seeing his exit as a plus is reasonable. Naturally, Comey wouldn’t see it that way.

It is amazing to me that a fired employee saying that his superior’s assessment that his organization was in disarray, that he was a poor leader and that his staff had “lost confidence In its leader” is given any weight at all. What fired employee doesn’t think his firing is unjust and the criticism of him is unfair? Comey calls it a lie: how does he know what Trump had been told or heard? How does Comey know what his agents say behind his back?

Your opinion that someone’s negative opinion about you is wrong and based on erroneous information does not make that opinion a lie. As a lawyer, Comey should know that, and should not have thrown the word “lie” around to be misunderstood by people who don’t know what a lie is—that is, most of the public. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured Crisis: The Comey Firing Freakout”

With so much loose talk about impeachment going around (and by “loose” I mean “inexcusably ignorant”), texagg04’s review of the Constitutional standard for the removal of a President is a gift to readers of Ethics Alarms, and one of the most interesting and informative comments ever to appear here.

He was reacting to a New York Times op-ed, cited by another commenter,  by political scientist Greg Weiner (no relation) titled, “Impeachment’s Political Heart,” in which the author concluded,

“The question is by what standards they should conduct this work, and that question provides an opportunity to correct the mistaken assumption according to which presidents can forfeit the public trust only by committing what the law recognizes as a crime. That is a poor bar for a mature republic to set. It is not the one a newborn republic established. And that is why the idea that the conversation about impeachment is simply a political persecution of a man who is technically innocent of a literal crime not only jumps the investigatory gun. It misses the constitutional point.”

Having studied the issue myself, I immediately rejected Weiner’s analysis (which still is worth reading in its entirety) on the ground that a constantly evolving standard of what is a “high crime and misdemeanor” simply means that Presidents can be impeached for behaving, or governing, in ways that enough members of Congress, the news media and the public don’t like. That is what is being advocated now, and that approach would undermine our democracy, the power of elections, and the office of the President.

My gut response, however, is wan and insubstantial compared to tex’s masterful historical review and astute analysis, which (whew!) reaches a similar conclusion.

Here is texagg04’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the post, “Reluctant Additional Ethics Notes On A Manufactured “Crisis”: The Comey Firing Freakout”…I’ll have one brief comment afterwards:

[Weiner] is making an argument from the same source material I mentioned, chiefly the Federalist papers. I still haven’t found Madison’s own specific arguments regarding it, but I think the source is irrelevant as the body of work published by the Founders (“Federalist” and “Antifederalist” alike) should be read as a single work documenting an internal dialogue, to be used as clarification when and where the final adopted documents possibly contain ambiguity. This could very well be one of those cases. That being said, the body of work by the Founders which may aid in revealing their intent or at least how they believed their philosophy of our political system out to be enshrined in the constitution, isn’t the only body of work used to interpret their intent. There is precedence and tradition, which the author of this article disregards when he says “Our tendency to read the impeachment power in an overly legalistic way, which is ratified by 230 years of excessive timidity about its use, obscures the political rather than juridical nature of the device.”

He’s right in nothing but that many of the earliest drafts and proposed language of the impeachment standards were very vague, such as (not an exhaustive list):

Continue reading

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Ethical Quote Of The Month: Former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz

“If it was a polite request saying, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a good guy, Flynn, I wish you’d back off this thing,’ that’s not an obstruction of justice. If it was a command, it would raise stronger problems.”

—Retired Harvard law professor , Constitutional scholar, lawyer, liberal and CNN commentator Alan Dershowitz, trying to explain to MSNBC what “obstruction of justice” means.

I’ve never been a Dershowitz fan, but when the List of Shame is complied after the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has finally ground to a halt, he’ll be on another list: the one containing those who maintained their integrity.

He needn’t have bothered: the news media/Democratic Party/ “resistance'” collective has already labelled James Comey’s so far only rumored “memo” recounting that the President asked the then-FBI Director, in a private meeting in February, to close the FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, proof of criminal motives and acts.

The New York Times learned of the memo from two people who claim they had read it. One of them read part of the memo to a Times journalist.  According to these unnamed sources’ description of the memo, Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go” in a meeting that took place the day after Flynn was forced to resign.

“I hope you can let this go” would be consistent with what Dershowitz, no Trump supporter but apparently yet to be infected with the integrity- and logic-destoying anti-Trump virus, accurately described as “not an obstruction of justice.”

The Times, however, a card-carrying member of the “overturn the election” cabal—we know this because it stated last August that defeating Trump justified tossing journalism ethics into the trash, and because since the election, its pages have from the book reviews to the op-ed pages have been filled anti-Trump propaganda—called Trump’s reported request “the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation” into links between Trump associates and Russia. This must mean that there is no evidence, at all, since saying “I hope you can let this go” is barely influence at all.

The news of the alleged memo was breathlessly hailed by the “Can we impeach him now?” fanatics, including some readers of this blog who should know better and once did, as a “bombshell.” As Alan Dershowitz dispassionately points out, and as I have in the comment threads, it’s no bombshell. This is not  remarkable observation; a New York Times contributor was even allowed to agree with Dershowitz. (The Times can’t completely commit to the lynch mob, for then its efforts to aid and abet would be less valuable. It’s quite a tightrope these people are walking….). Constitutional law prof Elizabeth Price Foley wrote, Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Five Ninth Circuit Judges

“We are all acutely aware of the enormous controversy and chaos that attended the issuance of the Executive Order. People contested the extent of the national security interests at stake, and they debated the value that the Executive Order added to our security against the real suffering of potential emigres. As tempting as it is to use the judicial power to balance those competing interests as we see fit, we cannot let our personal inclinations get ahead of important, overarching principles about who gets to make decisions in our democracy.

For better or worse, every four years we hold a contested presidential election. We have all found ourselves disappointed with the election results in one election cycle or another. But it is the best of American traditions that we also understand and respect the consequences of our elections. Even when we disagree with the judgment of the political branches — and perhaps especially when we disagree — we have to trust that the wisdom of the nation as a whole will prevail in the end.”

—-Five judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  (Judges Jay Bybee,  joined by Judges Alex Kozinski, Consuelo María Callahan, Carlos Bea, and Sandra Segal Ikuta, attacked what Bybee called the “fundamental errors” in the February decision of a three-judge panel upholding the temporary restraining order that blocked President Donald Trump’s first executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The opinion denounced the panel’s ruling as a “clear misstatement of law,” and stated that the five, constituting a larger number of judges than the three judge panel whose contrary holding was described as a “unanimous” 9th Circuit decision, had an”obligation to correct” it for the record.

“We are judges, not Platonic Guardians. It is our duty to say what the law is, and the meta-source of our law, the U.S. Constitution, commits the power to make foreign policy, including the decisions to permit or forbid entry into the United States, to the President and Congress,” the five judges stated.

Currently, the President’s revised order is held up by an even more widely criticized temporary restraining order issued by  U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson. As well as following many of the same lines of activist judicial reasoning the five judges criticized in their dissent, Judge Watson’s opinion heavily relies  on the campaign rhetoric of President Trump and statements by  chief aide Stephen Miller in TV interviews. This means, as several critical legal experts including Alan Dershowitz  have pointed out, that the exact same order, if issued by Barack Obama, would not have been blocked, and would have been found Constitutional.

Now that’s a double standard!

In criticizing their colleagues, the five judges said that the panel “brushed aside” the clearly controlling case law of Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972) and ignored entirely the rulings in Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128 (2015) and Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977).  The Supreme Court in Mandel recognized that First Amendment rights were implicated by an executive action but decided…

“when the executive has exercised its authority to exclude aliens on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment 11 interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.”

Continue reading

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Sally Yates Is Not A Hero. Sally Yates Is An Unethical Lawyer, And “Betrayal” Is Not Too Strong A Word For Her Conduct

yates

When you read pundits, journalists, your Angry Left Facebook  friends and even a few misguided lawyer proclaiming Sally Yates a hero, trust me, they either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are have allowed bias to make them stupid.  The Justice Department’s acting Attorney General who was fired minutes ago for refusing to defend President Trump’s Executive Order regarding Middle East immigration was not acting heroically. She was acting as a partisan, political operative, and by doing so, breached her duties an attorney as well as the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct.

And I do know what I am talking about.

Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration, but to an ethical lawyer, that wouldn’t have mattered. Her client hadn’t changed; it is the United States of America. Neither had her professional obligations. Her client was still the government of the United States, and she was still duty bound to defend its laws, as determined by the legislature and the executive, the President of the United States. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct of the jurisdiction in which she practices, the District of Columbia (the Rule is 1.13) Yates had but one ethical option if she determined that her client wanted to engage in conduct she deemed illegal, repugnant, or unwise. Having made her concerns known, she could resign (Rule 1.16) , and quietly. She is duty bound not to harm her client during the representation (Rule 1.3, of which the District has an especially tough version), nor make public statements, or statements she has reason to believe will be made public, that breach her duty of loyalty. In defiance of all of that, tonight Yates stated, in a letter to her department’s lawyers,

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

The only ethical conclusion of that statement is “therefore I am withdrawing.” Yates said that her decision not to defend the order included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a “wise or just” policy. That’s not her job. Lawyers are not permitted to substitute their judgement for their clients.

She was fired, and should have been. She should also be the subject of am ethics inquiry. This has nothing to do with the merits of Trump’s order. Former Harvard professor (and legal ethics prof) Alan Dershowitz, hardly a GOP flack, said tonight that Yates’ decision wasn’t legal, but political. Exactly. As a lawyer, she should have made her position clear from a legal perspective to the President, and then either followed his directive or quit. Her rogue announcement contradicted a finding by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which  approved the executive order “with respect to form and legality.” Nor did her outrageous grandstanding require courage. She was not going to keep her job anyway, so she decided to abuse the trust of the President to encourage partisan Trump-haters to hoot and applaud for an act of legal ethics defiance. (Ethics rules don’t apply when Donald Trump is involved, haven’t you heard?)

Yates is also a hypocrite. The Holder Justice Department, of which she was a part, defended multiple Executive Orders by President Obama that were legally dubious, and other actions as well. That Justice Department was one of the most disgracefully partisan within memory, a neat trick, since we have had a couple of decades of unethically partisan Justice Departments. Yates showed her pedigree tonight. She used her position as an attorney–the highest one there is—for her client, the United States, to undermine her client’s objectives, publicly and to her client’s detriment. The Trump administration has called this a betrayal.

That’s exactly what it is.

(More here..)

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Ethics Quote Of The Day: Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen

'Oh, all right, here's what I really think, since I'm already ticked off...'

‘Oh, all right, here’s what I really think, since we’re way past the 2012 election and I’m already ticked off...’

 “The Russians managed to do what they wanted to do in Syria. Why not the United States? The answer has always been clear to me. Obama did not care enough. Not from him ever came a thundering demand that Russia and Iran get out and stay out. Behind the arguably persuasive reasons to do little in Syria was an emotional coldness. This was not Obama’s fight. Kellyanne Conway keeps pointing out that Hillary Clinton had no message. True. Neither for that matter did Obama. He waved a droopy flag. He did not want to make America great again. It was great enough for him already. The banner he flew was one of American diminishment. One could agree, one could not be proud . . . Since the end of world War II, American leadership has been essential to maintain world peace. Whether we liked it or not, we were the world’s policeman. There was no other cop on the beat. Now that leadership is gone. So, increasingly, will be peace.”

Richard Cohen, reliably liberal Washington Post op-ed columnist of long-standing, in his latest titled, “Thanks to no-drama Obama, American leadership is gone.

Good for Cohen. Like George Will on the conservative side, Cohen will occasionally break through his biases to pronounce hard truth. Except to pacifists and isolationists, Obama’s foreign policy has made the world a far more dangerous place, and created a power vacuum that is being filled by Russia, Iran, China and terrorist organizations. Weak, feckless and inept, the President’s foreign misadventures and evasions have been substantially shielded from accountability by public apathy, media alibis, and Hillary Clinton’s bind, which prevented her from articulating her own criticisms of our current foreign weakness  for fear that it would lose her the support of the blind Obama cheering section. Continue reading

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