Let’s Play “Pick The Most Unethical Lawsuit!”

Bad suits

Hello, hello, hello, Game Show fans! My, what a great crowd we have today. I’m your host, Wink Marshall, and today our contestants are going to compete for Most Unethical Law Suit. As always, you, our home audience, will decide who get the prize, a lifetime supply of extremely expensive boloney, courtesy of our sponsor, Oscar Meyer. Are you ready? Then, let’s meet our contestants! First, heeeere’s…

Andrew Rector!

You remember Andrew, right? In June, I wrote…

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters. …Let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. …Unfortunately, Rector, whose name was unknown and whose sleeping form would have been quickly forgotten, decided that his humiliation was so great that he needed to sue…for $10, 000,000. Rector filed the suit against ESPN, Shulman, Kruk, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball…and asks for damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing malicious and false statements said about him,including that Rector is “a fatty cow” that represents a “symbol of failure.” …None of the defendants actually said any of these things (“fatty cow”?). Rector’s suit is apparently making the creative legal argument that ESPN’s mild mockery seeded the vicious mockery elsewhere on the web.

Welcome back to Ethics Alarms, Andrew, old friend!  Try to sta awake, now! Has the Streisand Effect kicked in yet? We’re doing what we can to help!

Now let’s meet someone completely new to Ethics Alarms, Contestant #2, Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Warning: Affirmative Action for the Hideous

You won't need that portrait any more, Dorian...the Americans with Disabilities Act has you covered!

It is rare that an ethics train wreck of culture-wide proportions can be prevented with a firm, “Shut up, and go away!” This appears to be one of those times, however, and if anyone is reluctant, I hereby volunteer for the job.

Daniel S. Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, is shilling for his book, “Beauty Pays,” in which he proves the unremarkable fact that being attractive is an advantage in society , and being unattractive is an impediment. He recently hit the op-ed pages of the New York Times, writing, among other things, this:

“Why this disparate treatment of looks in so many areas of life? It’s a matter of simple prejudice. Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors. This is not a matter of evil employers’ refusing to hire the ugly: in our roles as workers, customers and potential lovers we are all responsible for these effects.”

“How could we remedy this injustice?”

Whoa! There it is, the magic words that open the door for ham-handed social architects to do what they always to do, try to remedy the results of natural human proclivities and preferences with laws. Continue reading

Something’s Wrong Here…

A Justice Department job announcement seeks up to ten attorneys for the Civil Rights Division to serve as Trial Attorneys in the Voting Section. It also says…

The Civil Rights Division encourages qualified applicants with targeted disabilities to apply. Targeted disabilities are deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorder, mental retardation, mental illness, severe distortion of limbs and/or spine. Applicants who meet the qualification requirements and are able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation are encouraged to identify targeted disabilities in response to the questions in the Avue application system seeking that information.

Yes, it’s true: your government is looking for mentally retarded and mentally ill trial lawyers to work in the Justice Department. Continue reading

Ethics and the Suicidal Student

Ethics often comes down to answering  the basic question, “What is the right thing to do?” Sometimes the wrong option will be easy to identify, but finding the right action is nearly impossible, complicated by diverse stakeholders, conflicting values and legal entanglements. This is the situation universities face when a student becomes suicidal. What action is in the best interest of the student, as well as the other students and the institution itself? Continue reading