Observations On A Potential Supreme Court Ethics Scandal That I Have No Idea What To Make Of…

What’s going on here? I wish I knew.

Rolling Stone has reported that during an evangelical victory celebration in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the Dobbs decision,  Capitol Hill religious leader Peggy Nienaber got herself recorded saying that  she has prayed with sitting justices inside the SCOTUS building. “We’re the only people who do that,” Peggy Nienaber boasted. Nienaber is Liberty Counsel’s executive director of DC Ministry, as well as the vice president of Faith & Liberty, whose ministry offices sit directly behind the Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court, and filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

Rolling Stone says,

Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mat Staver, strenuously denied that the in-person ministering to justices that Nienaber bragged about exists. “It’s entirely untrue,” Staver tells Rolling Stone. “There is just no way that has happened.” He adds: “She has prayer meetings for them, not with them.” Asked if he had an explanation for Nienaber’s direct comments to the contrary, Staver says, “I don’t.” But the founder of the ministry, who surrendered its operations to Liberty Counsel in 2018, tells Rolling Stone that he hosted prayer sessions with conservative justices in their chambers from the late-1990s through when he left the group in the mid-2010s. Rob Schenck, who launched the ministry under the name Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital, described how the organization forged ministry relationships with Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and the late Antonin Scalia, saying he would pray with them inside the high court. Nienaber was Schenk’s close associate in that era, and continued with the ministry after it came under the umbrella of Liberty Counsel.

Yikes. Continue reading

“Ethics? What’s Ethics?” Mayor Adams Takes The Reins…[Updated!]

Next time a New York Democrat complains about an elected government official’s ethics when he or she identifies as Republican, breaking out into uncontrollable laughter would be appropriate.

New New York City Eric Adams, elected as the “anti-de Blasio,” almost immediately proved that he has at least one thing in common with New York’s “Worst Mayor Ever.” Just a few days ago, Ethics Alarms noted that the former mayor had defiantly continued to ask corporate contractors for the city to contribute to a de Blasio slush fund, in a time honored unethical shakedown ploy known as “pay to play,” even though he had been formally warned to cut it out by the city’s ethics board. Now the new improved mayor is also signalling that he isn’t very concerned about ethics, the appearance of impropriety, or conflicts of interest.

Adams appointed as his sole male deputy mayor (the other five are female) Philip Banks III, who comes with some interesting baggage. (That’s Banks above on the right, the new mayor is on the left.)

Continue reading

The Judge, The Video And The Slur [Corrected]

Judge Michelle Odinet of the City Court of Lafayette, Louisiana, resigned last week after being heard on a video using the term “nigger” while watching security footage of a foiled car burglary outside her home. In her letter of resignation to the chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, Odinet said she was stepping down “after much reflection and prayer, and in order to facilitate healing within the community.”

“My words did not foster the public’s confidence and integrity for the judiciary,” she wrote. Yeah, I would say that that’s accurate. Still, it’s a strange story. In the video, voices off camera inside the judge’s home are heard saying “nigger” repeatedly and laughing as they watch security-camera footage of someone trying to break into a car until the criminal was foiled. Also used: “mom,” which is the judge, who was clearly joining in the hilarity.

The video was originally sent by an unknown source to a local newspaper, and when she was first questioned, Odinet tried to huminhumina out of the mess. She initially said she had no recollection of the conversation shown, and claimed that her “mental state was fragile” because of the attempted burglary. She also used the excuse that she had been “given a sedative at the time of the video.” Then she played the Pazuzu card (“That’s not me talking!”) protesting that “Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives.” Continue reading

A Musical Ethics Quiz: D.C.’s Biased Jailer

Landerkin fuck

There’s really nothing special about this tweet from a woman named Kathleen Landerkin. I have friends and relatives who might tweet the same sentiments, if they were, you know, vulgar, uncivil clods. They aren’t, fortunately: I don’t consort with vulgar, uncivil clods. However, the tweet above is significant, because Ms. Landerkin is the current Correctional Training Facility (CTF) Deputy Warden at the Department of Corrections in the District of Columbia, and thus assists in overseeing day to day operations, inmate transportation, and case management at the D.C. Jail. The D.C. Jail is where Donald Trump supporting participants in the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol are being kept.

Landerkin has been wildly vocal abut her hatred of al things related to Donald Trump, especially his supporters, and has been tweeting rants and nasty messages about those she creatively calls “deplorables” for years. One of the more provocative comments was this one, from 2018:

landerkin-white-people-extinct

Why should anyone care? Well, she has power over the January 6 inmates, and this degree of hostility, which could be fairly called demented, calls into legitimate question her ability to do her job fairly. Or does it? Literally dozens of over-heated tweets were uncovered by an enterprising social media sleuth, so Landerkin took down her account…but not before he reduced them to a video.

Continue reading

Now THIS Is The Appearance Of Impropriety…

impropriety

The big legal ethics story of the day is a Wall Street Journal report showing that 131 federal judges, appointed by nearly every President from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump, have violated federal law by failing to recuse themselves in cases where either they or family members held a financial interest in one of the parties, meaning that the judge’s decision could have resulted in a direct or indirect benefit. This is, of course, a conflict of interest. Even if the judge was as trustworthy as a saint and would never dream of allowing such a conflict to interfere with his or her judgment, allowing these cases to appear before them violates the judicial ethics canon requiring judges to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

The Wall Street Journal report found that the judges failed to recuse themselves from 685 court cases since 2010. About two-thirds of all federal district judges had holdings of individual stocks, about one of every five of these heard at least one case involving those stocks without withdrawing. When these judges participated in such cases, about two-thirds of their rulings on motions favored the party that their or their family’s financial interests would benefit from prevailing.

Continue reading

A Ripley! Believe It Or Not, Rep. Ted Lieu Is Even Worse Than You Thought!

believe-it-or-not

This is right up there with Robert Ripley’s discovery of “the Lighthouse Man,” a Szechuan eccentric who drilled a hole into his skull so he could carry a lit candle on his head to light the way through dark passages. After all, Ted Lieu (D-Cal) has already proven himself to be unbelievably awful, with a series of unbelievable statements (and I’m sure I’ve missed a lot). In 2018, for example, he told CNN host Brianna Keilar, among other things, “I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech.” Ethics Alarms named him the Incompetent Elected Official of the Month back in 2011, when he was just a humble State Senator. Naturally, by the consistent logic of California voters, this distinction meant he was ready for the big time, and should be sent to Washington. He was, and racked up two more Incompetent Elected Official awards and an Ethics Dunce. Lieu would be a legitimate feature in several Ripley strips: for example, he is not the dumbest member of Congress. Believe it or not!

He’s probably not the most unethical either, despite this news: Lieu contributed $51,046 to his alma mater, Stanford University, shortly before his son was admitted. Not only did he do this while the “Varsity Blues” celebrity college admissions scandal was being roundly condemned, but according to reports, the bribe was came out of Lieu’s campaign funds.

Continue reading

Not QUITE Hypocrisy, But Close Enough For An Eye-Roll: The Democratic Attempt To Reverse An Iowa House Election

Democrats have only a razor-thin 219-211 advantage in the House of Representatives (with five current vacancies). Although state officials declared Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks the winner in the state’s Second Congressional District after she won her race by just six votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, and though she took the oath of office in Washington in January, Nancy Pelosi set the ball rolling for the House of Representatives to overrule the state and award the seat to Miller-Meeks’ Democratic opponent, Rita Hart.

She has refused to concede the race, claiming that 22 disallowed ballots should have made her the winner if counted. The House has the rarely used power under the Constitution to arbitrate “elections, returns and qualifications of its own members,” and in 1969, Congress passed the Federal Contested Elections Act to set up a clear process governing how it should hear and decide such cases. So now Democrats have initiated an investigation by the House Administration Committee, a full-scale review into the election that could lead to impounding ballots, a hand recount and ultimately a vote by the full House to decide the election.

But…but… I thought members of the House and Senate refusing to accept the state-certified results of the 2020 Presidential election was an attack on democracy itself (although this too is allowed under the Constitution)! Well, that was Republicans, you see, and the complaining candidate was Donald Trump. Come on. Be reasonable. Besides, why would anyone suspect that the review of the Iowa House election would be subject to partisan bias and manipulation?

Continue reading

Now THIS Is The “Appearance of Impropriety”!

Was Joe Biden’s nomination of Senator Joe Manchin’s wife to a $165,000 post in his administration a bribe or a pay-off? So far, there’s no way to tell, but there is also no question about whether it creates an appearance of impropriety, which undermines public trust in the government, assuming there is any left at this point. It does. In fact, I can’t think of a more vivid example. The ethics rules governing government employees and judges, as well as members of Congress, prohibit conduct that creates the appearance of impropriety. The President and Vice-President are not covered by the rules. The circumstances around this appointment create only, well, circumstantial evidence of corruption, but then that’s what “appearance” means. It is conduct that creates suspicion.

Boy, does this ever.

Two days after Sen. Manchin cast a last-minute deciding vote on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s that advanced Biden’s controversial Pentagon policy nominee, Colin Kahl, to the full Senate, Manchin’s wife Gayle was announced as the surprise nominee to be federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. The agency focuses on investing in Appalachia’s economic future by “providing grants, publishing research, and sponsoring learning experience.”

This, several news sources wrote, “raises questions about whether there was any connection between his vote and his wife’s nomination.” Ya think? The Biden administration has made it clear that if a nominee isn’t gay, trans, non-white, disabled, or a fire-breathing radical, there is no place for he/she/whatever. Why would a middle-of-the road, white woman from West Virginia qualify, other than the fact that she is, in fact, qualified for the job by those old fashioned, racist standards of yore?

Continue reading

Last Gasp Ethics, New Year’s Eve 2020

Happy New Year, Everybody!

1. A late entry in the “Most Unethical Lawyer of 2020” competition! McGinnis E. Hatfield was stripped of his license to practice law by the West Virginia Supreme Court. What did he do? Well, this section of a transcript of his conversation with a female client explains things pretty well:

Female: “I thought like when we first started out, I was just going to pay you. I didn’t know that you wanted sex out of the whole thing.”

Hatfield: “Well, I’d have to charge you like $1,500 bucks. You don’t have $1,500, do you?”

Female: “No.”

Hatfield “So come on out here. Just come. What time do you want to come?… [I]t’s just not going to work unless you do what I say.”

Female: “What do you want me to do?”

Hatfield: “… “Well, I want you to let me eat your pussy, and then I want you to let – I want you to suck my dick, and then, you know, I just have to – I’m as straightforward as I can be. And if you don’t want to do that, then fine. I don’t have any- I like you. And if you don’t want to do that, then we’ll just have to call it off.”

Female: “Is that not – all right. That’s fine. Whatever.”

Hatfield: “Is that okay?”

Female: “I mean no, not really because I’m not a whore.”

Hatfield: ” … And like I said, if you won’t want to do that, then that’s fine by me. I wish you luck. And if you don’t want to do that, then I’m not going to try to represent you. So that’s a benefit for you. And I’ll give you some money, too[.]”… You know, I’m shooting straight with you. I told you from the beginning that sex was important to me. I want some now. Nobody’s tried to trick you. And it would be safe, too. But anyway, if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine by me, honey, but you’ll have to get somebody to help you with your divorce, too.”

Female: “Okay, That’s fine.

Of course, it’s not fine. Lawyers are prohibited from having sex with clients in most jurisdictions. Lawyers cannot encourage individuals, including clients, to commit a crime. Mr. Hatfield compounded his problems when he flunked the easiest part of a disciplinary inquiry, telling the judge who asked Hatfield whether in retrospect, he found his behavior inappropriate or unethical,

“I think my conduct in this whole situation is human. And that’s the only defense I’m offering. Lord knows, we all need that. So that’s as far as I’ll go with that.”

The judge tried again, asking, “Are you remorseful?” Hatfield replied, “No. I have no remorse. I feel like I’ve been victimized.”

What an idiot.

It put me in mind of the Steven Wright line, “How did the fool and his money get together in the first place?”

Continue reading