Tag Archives: arrogance

The Unprepared Judicial Nominee

 

Matthew S.] Petersen, a lawyer serving on the Federal Election Commission, was one of five President Trump judicial nominees to be questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Senator John N. Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, subjected Petersen to questions regarding basic litigation law, such as the Daubert standard, which has to do with qualifying expert witness testimony, the definition of a motion in limine, and several other bits of information a junior litigator would have to have in his memory banks. The potential judge told the Senator that he had never tried a case or argued a motion in court. He said he last read the Federal Rules of evidence in law school. “I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I’ve taken,” Petersen said.

Naturally, being a Trump nominee, Petersen is being widely mocked in the news media and by Democrats. Some legal experts have been more sympathetic, like Judge Wayne R. Andersen, who was a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois for nearly 20 years. He told reporters  that there was a continuing debate within the legal profession about the qualifications required of a trial judge, saying, “Anyone who steps to the federal bench lacks a huge amount of federal experience necessary to do the job,” and that Senator Kennedy’s questions, while fair, “would eliminate 80 percent of the nation’s lawyers and many of the most talented lawyers.”

Lawyer/Blogger John Hinderaker wrote in part,

The lawyers who have the most thorough understanding of substantive areas of the law–real estate, taxes, corporate governance and so on–are generally not litigators. Do we really want to say that all of these non-litigators–the majority of lawyers–are unfit to be trial judges?…does it mean that one of my non-litigator partners would be disqualified from such an appointment, no matter how good a lawyer he or she might be? I don’t think so.

… Newly-appointed judges attend “judge school,” where they are taught the finer points of the rules of evidence….Most lawyers who are appointed to the bench in both federal and state courts have backgrounds in litigation. No doubt that is appropriate. However, it is by no means rare for non-litigator lawyers to be appointed, or win election, to the bench. In my opinion, that is a good thing. I don’t see why a minority of lawyers–litigators–should have a monopoly on the bench. I don’t know whether Matthew Petersen will make a good judge or not. But in my view, he doesn’t deserve to be ridiculed because his highly-successful law career has been conducted outside of the courtroom.

I agree; he shouldn’t be ridiculed for that. Continue reading

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Ethics Lessons Of The Dallas Prosecutor-Uber Driver Confrontation

Dallas prosecutor Jody Warner was fired from her job in the Dallas District Attorney’s office for an ugly—and subtantially recorded—argument with an Uber driver.

“Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” the DA’s office said in a written statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.”

What happened?

Yikes.

Uber driver Shaun Platt said he picked up Warner, 32, at a Dallas bar. He knew pretty quickly that he had a drunk on his hands, as she yelled at friends out the window when she got in his car. Warner directed him to take a different route from the one his GPS suggested, and he got lost.

“I said, ‘Should I make a left up here?’ and she refused to answer me,” Platt said. “She said, ‘You can follow the fucking GPS’ and she became increasingly angry, even though I was just trying to get her home.” Warner continued berating him, and, he claims, slapped his shoulder. At that point, he pulled his car over, ended the Uber app, and ordered her out.

But the prosecutor refused, threatening that he was “never going to work again” and that she “knows people.”  “Who are they going to believe? I’m a district attorney,” Platt says she told him. (Unstated but understood: “And you’re just a dumb Uber driver!’) At that point he called 911 and started recording her comments on his cell phone.

Highlights:

  • “Oh, my God, you’re going to regret this so much.Just take me home, dude. … Either drop me off at my house, or we’ll wait for the cops because I’m not wrong.”
  • “You’re a fucking idiot.We’ll wait for the cops then if that’s what you think is appropriate.”
  • “Oh my God, you’re an idiot. You are a legitimate retard. I want to go home so badly but you’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can fuck you up, that’s what I want.”
  • “Dude, everything’s being reported.I’m an assistant district attorney so shut the fuck up.”
  • “I think this might be kidnapping right now, actually.”

After that statement, the non-lawyer Uber driver correctly made the salient legal point that since he had asked her to leave, and she was free to leave, “It’s not kidnapping, ma’am.”

She replied, “No, it is because there was an Uber that had a destination and you have not taken me to that destination. You’re holding me here, so please take me to that destination.”

Oh..huh? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/9/17: Everyone Behaving Abysmally Edition

Let’s scream “Good Morning!” to the sky!

1 The FBI is now complaining that it’s too difficult to break into smartphones, since the Texas maniac, Devin Kelley, had one that has so far resisted cracking. By all means, let’s make sure we have no privacy from government intrusions into our lives and relationships. I’m sure—I really am sure—that the “think of the children!” mob and the “if it saves only one life!” brigade will happily surrender the right to privacy, which is, per the Supreme Court, is also in the Bill of Rights, just like the rights of free speech and the right to bear arms.

The solution is right in front of the FBI anyway.  Just take Kelley ‘s body on a plane trip to Bali, manipulate his dead thumb, and use it to unlock the phone.

2. I see little to choose from ethically between Facebook selling space for deceptive ads to the Russians and CNN selling time on their newscasts for a billionaire to make his personal, dishonest and ignorant demand that President Trump be impeached. I had heard and read about the ad, which is basically Maxine Waters’ warped version of the Constitution and the impeachment clause, with a little Richard Painter thrown in, but I assumed I would have to go online to see it. Nope, there it was this morning during a break on Headline News. Respectable news sources, not that CNN qualifies any more, have traditionally rejected factually misleading political ads from private interests, and a Constitutionally moronic rant from a rich guy with money to burn surely should qualify.

The rich guy is Tom Steyer, who apparently once was an intelligent human being even as you and I. His ad claims that “Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president.” Let’s see: the first is pure hysteria and an attempt to criminalize policy and international poker (I’d argue that the weak response to North Korea by the U.N. and previous administrations has been what has “brought us to the brink,” as well as, of course, the rogue country threatening nuclear attacks and firing missiles over Japan).

The second is a gonzo anti-Trump resistance theory that would be tossed out of any court, except maybe in Hawaii. The third is intentionally dishonest: this is the Emoluments Clause fantasy that holds the discredited theory a hotel owner has to be impeached if he doesn’t sell his hotels. Steyer’s ad also says that that Trump should be impeached for various tweets, half-baked opinions and comments. As one would expect from a  Democratic mega-donor, he apparently believes that speech qualifies as a high crime when it annoys progressives.

Naturally, again as one would expect, Steyer implies in his ad that Bill Clinton, who really did commit a crime as President and really did obstruct justice, was impeached by a Republican Congress for “far less.” This disqualifies him as a serious person.

3. Baseball fans know that Roy Halladay, a near-Hall of Fame pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies renowned for his durability until his arm fell off (metaphorically speaking), was killed this week when he crashed his single engine plane into the Gulf of Mexico. Observers say he was flying recklessly, and there is evidence that he wasn’t properly experienced to be operating the plane as he was. In Boston, radio sports jockey Michael Felger went on an extended rant excoriating the dead pitcher for being irresponsible, especially as a husband and father.  Here’s a sample: Continue reading

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The 87th And 88th Rationalizations: The Reverse 15 And The Psychic Historian

Translation: “I got nuthin’!'”

I haven’t been in tip-top shape the last several days, making new posts more of an ordeal than they should be. Luckily this motivates me to catch up on updating the Rationalizations List, which has several waiting additions, including these:

Rationalization #15 A. The Reverse 15, or “If I don’t do it ( and I don’t want to) somebody else will.”

The Reverse 15 uses exactly the same excuse as #15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” but for the opposite purpose. In #15, the rationalizer wants to avoid the consequences of doing something unethical by arguing that his or her refusal to follow orders would have no practical effect: someone else would just step in and do what was demanded anyway. How, asks the fictionalized version of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz in “The Andersonville Trial,” can a post-Civil War military tribunal fairly hold him responsible for cruelly mistreating the Union prisoners in the Georgia prison camp as he was ordered to, when if he refused he would have been shot, and his successor would have abused them anyway?

In 15A, the argument is the opposite. The rationalizer refuses to perform a necessary ethical act out of apathy, callousness or fear, but this was reasonable because he or she was certain that someone else would do the right thing instead. The Reverse 15 could also be called “The Kitty Genovese Rationalization,” recalling that the many people who heard the murdered woman’s screams chose not to “get involves” while convincing themselves that someone would come to her aid. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. We pass a stopped car in distress on the highway at night, reasoning that someone else will stop to help, sparing us the trouble.

Sometimes someone does. Sometimes not. This abdication of an ethical duty is accomplished by casting one’s lot, and gambling with the fate of another, while relying on the unpredictable quirks of moral luck. The only ethical decision is to take action. You must do what you know is the ethical act yourself, and not ignore your obligation because you can pass the buck and then argue, disingenuously, “How could I know that everyone else would be as unethical as I am?”

Rationalization #1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m On The Right Side Of History”

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/6/17: Comey’s Premature Draft, Obama’s Golden Rule Breach, Newspapers “Protecting Us,”And Thank-You, Boston Red Sox

 

1 I want to sincerely thank the Boston Red Sox for giving me, the sole baseball ethicist on the web who also devotes a disturbing amount of his time, energy and passion to following the team, the challenge and opportunity to address a major cheating scandal involving the organization and institution I love. Seriously, guys, thank you. This is exactly what I needed to face after staying up past 1 AM watching the Sox pull out a 19 inning, 6 hour game on Hanley Ramirez’s bloop single to center.

I’ll cover the issue in the next post. Ugh.

2. Ironically, just as the anti-Trump news media was hyperventilating over the fact that the Special Counsel was examining a draft letter by the President regarding his reasons for firing James Comey (draft letters have minimal probative value if any, but you know: Trump), it came to light that in May of 2016, Comey had drafted a statement declining to charge Hillary Clinton or her staff in the State Department e-mail scandal, months before key witnesses (like Clinton herself) had been interviewed or much of the evidence had been reviewed. President Trump, of course, tweeted that this proved there was a “rigged process,” but Comey’s draft is no more incriminating that Trump’s draft. (Now, Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton might suggest a rigged process, but that’s another story.)

Supreme Court Justices have drafted opinions before oral argument; that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds. It is certainly odd that Comey would have drafted a statement that Clinton would not be indicted so long before the investigation was completed. It is odder still that Hillary’s interview was not under oath, that it wasn’t videotaped, that there was no transcript, and that she was allowed to have representing her as an attorney at the session a top aide who was also a potential witness.

Professor Turley, in a column at The Hill, agrees that the early draft doesn’t implicate the integrity of the investigation, but raises a related issue:

While I am inclined to accept assurances from Comey that he did not finally decide on charges until after reviewing all of the evidence, the details from the Clinton investigation hardly support a view of a robust and dogged effort in comparison to the type of investigation of people like Paul Manafort.

In pursuing Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller has now enlisted an army of investigators, reached a cooperative relationship with staunch Trump critic New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and actively pursued tax and financial dealings far afield of the original Russian collusion allegations. He also ordered a heavy-handed (and unnecessary) “no knock” search in the middle of the night on Manafort’s home.

The Clinton investigation looks like Club Fed in comparison. Clinton and her staff refused to cooperate with State Department investigators seeking confirm any damage to national security. Key laptops were withheld and only turned over after Comey’s staff agreed to destroy the computers after their review, despite the relevance of the evidence to congressional investigations. Comey then cut five immunity deals with key Clinton staff members, including former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who set up a server in Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and worked for her at the State Department.

Pagliano refused to cooperate after invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and destroyed evidence after being given a preservation order. Those deals raised the concern over a type of prosecutorial planned obsolescence, making a viable case less likely.

The amusing part is that all of this circles back to Comey’s firing, which was justified by his handling of the Clinton investigation regardless of any other factors.

3. The New York Times today reviews a festival play called “___hole.” That’s not really the title, however, although “___hole” was printed twice as the play title before the Times made this clear. A comment by the reviewer noted that the real title couldn’t “get past the editors.” Continue reading

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The Ohio State Fair Accident: Thanks, TV News, But I’LL Decide What I Should See

From ABC News:

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Jarrell, of Columbus, Ohio, was killed Wednesday evening when the Fire Ball ride he was on at the Ohio State Fair broke apart in mid-air, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said. Seven people were also injured in the incident…The victims were transported to local hospitals and at least three are in critical condition.

On all the news channels I saw, including CNN, HLN, ABC, Fox and CBS, video taken by an onlooker was frozen at the moment the ride broke apart. As HLN’s  cheery Robin Meade put it, “We’re not going to show the rest of the video, because it’s graphic and disturbing.”

Wait, Robin: YOU saw it. The producers saw it. Why don’t I get to see it?

I posted the unedited video above. It’s not any more graphic than this…

 

…and people paid to see that scene. But never mind, the silly hyper-protectiveness isn’t the ethics issue.

The ethics issue is that this is how journalists convince themselves  that they can withhold information, or distort it, change it or spin it for our own good. No, I don’t grant them that privilege, or the role. The job of the news media is to let us know what happened, as thoroughly as they know it. Today it’s some people flying off of a malfunctioning fair ride, yesterday it’s that a President of the U.S. might have raped someone. Tomorrow it might be, oh, I don’t know, this story, which had barely nicked the news networks as of yesterday.

I don’t trust these people to decide what it’s healthy for me to watch. If they want to give warnings, fine. I want the news, the whole news, and nothing but the news. Continue reading

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The Unethical, Un-American, State Travel Bans

Recently various states have decided to punish their fellow members of the United States of America for daring to adopt laws of which they do not approve. The method: bans on government employees traveling to those states on business and the state dime, with the hope that the state’s lead will discourage private travel as well. Why are they doing this? Oh, many reasons, I suppose, all of them insufficient to justify the conduct, which is unethical.

Some of the state legislators who pass these bans, and the governors who sign them, want to place economic sanctions on the other states, even if the effects are limited. After all, they can’t stop the citizens of the states from traveling, only government employees. But pressure is pressure, and the limited measures are an attempt to meddle in the democracy of those other bad states. Another reason is virtue-signalling, as a state seeks to show that it supports a group that is politically strong in that region against another state’s policies that displease it. A third reason is the related motive of grandstanding. Finally, a state might use a travel ban to strike back at another state that is banning state travel there. An eye for an eye, a voucher for a voucher.

Yes, this will end well.

I wish I didn’t have to say this, because I know everyone thinks I pick on liberals, progressives and Democrats, but it’s the Democratic majority states that are using this weapon, especially…well, can you guess? Oh, come on, guess. Yes, the major offender is California. Others are New York, Minnesota, and Washington state.

“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights,” says the public statement of California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California, who has been instrumental in getting the Golden State to limit trips to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. You know, those conservative bad places, where people with sub-normal IQ’s cling to their guns and Bibles. His quote is a classic of arrogant, doctrinaire, narrow-minded, elitist self-righteousness. Continue reading

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