Friday Ethics Footnotes, 7/31/2020: 1619, Dumber Lawyers, And Trader Joe’s Stands Up For “Trader Ming’s”

1. Psst! This doesn’t send a message that is complimentary to minorities...The California Supreme Court, which oversees the state bar, agreed to lower the passing score for the exam. The objective is to raise the number of black and Hispanic lawyers. 40 % of California’s population is white, and 60% are not. But 68% of California lawyers are white, according to a new report by the State Bar of California.

Well, so what? Maybe more whites want to be lawyers; whatever the reason, lowering the standards for getting a license seems like a poor way to improve the situation, since it promises to add more dim attorneys. Why do all professions have to have identical demographics to the population at large?

“There is absolutely no evidence that shows having a higher score makes for better lawyers,” said UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “There is significant evidence that it reduces the diversity of the bar.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure letting people get law licenses by playing beanbag would also lead to a more diverse bar. There is no way to determine whether having higher scores on the bar exam correlates with being a “better lawyer,” but I guarantee not being able to pass the bar exam correlates with being significantly slower on the uptake that a lawyer who can.  Mnookin is saying that intelligence and critical thinking skills don’t factor in the practice of law. What an interesting thing for a law dean to say. Do you think she really believes that?

No one has been able to show that the bar exams anywhere have a racial bias, but since other explanations for comparatively low passing rates among African-Americans are not politically palatable, the George Floyd Freakout has led to this. California will now have dumber lawyers of all colors. Progress! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/31/17

Good Morning!

1. If you want an instant reading on someone’s ethics alarms, or a quick diagnosis of whether he or she is a jerk, ask their opinion on yesterday’s episode in which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in the face of a Cubs fan who was harassing him during the Brewers-Cubs game. Instead of ignoring the fan, who was shouting insults at him, Christie walked over to him and said, among other things, “You’re a big shot!”

“Appreciate that,” the fan gulped.

It’s rude, uncivil and cowardly to shout insults at anyone who just happens to be attending an event as a private citizen. It doesn’t matter who the target is. The fan, Brad Joseph, assumed that he was insulated  by the crowd and the setting from any consequences of being a jackass by setting out to make Christie’s visit to the ball park unpleasant. Bravo to Christie for behaving exactly as any other non-weenie would when subjected to such abuse. Brad was adopting the same false  entitlement the “Hamilton” cast assumed when it harassed Mike Pence, though in lower case. Elected officials have an obligation to listen to the public’s complaints and positions. They do not have an obligation to accept outright abuse, and shouldn’t.

Joseph, heretofore to be referred to as “The Jerk,” or TJ, told a radio station, “I called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.” Then walk up to the Governor like a man, look him in the eyes, and say it, you chicken. Shouting from a crowd is a hit-and-run tactic, and you know it. You depended on it.

 

“This is America and I think we have the right to say what you believe as long as it’s not crude or profane,” Joseph then said. Wrong, Hot Dog Breath. You do have a right to be crude and profane, but as with those abuses of free speech, harassing someone, anyone, at a ball game is still unfair and unethical.

2. Then there were the ad hominem attacks on the Governor in the comments to the story. Did you know Christie was fat? Did you know that being fat proves his unfitness for public service or removes his human right to be treated decently when he goes to a ball game? These were the conclusions of easily 75% of all commenters, proving informally that 75% of internet commenters have the ethical instincts of 10-year-olds.

The news media was hardly better: check which sources make a big deal about the fact that Christie was holding a plate of nachos when he stared down TJ. This non-essential detail was even in some headlines. Newsweek, which is really just a left-wing supermarket tabloid now, actually headlined the story “Chris Christie confronts fan who wouldn’t let him eat nachos in peace.”

That’s not just fat-shaming, that’s an endorsement of fat-shaming. The problem with Chris Christie isn’t that he’s fat; the problem with him is that he is corrupt and sold out his principles and his country to help make Donald Trump President, none of which justifies abusing him when he’s at a baseball game.

Or watching “Hamilton. Continue reading

Fairness To Incompetent Lawyers?

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a good law  suit on her cognitive problems..

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a valid law suit on her cognitive problems…

Why this story didn’t make my head explode, thus rating the KABOOM! label, is a mystery. My theory is that the truly idiotic and ignorant exclamations on Facebook by my usually rational friends about guns in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack have gradually strengthened my skull’s tolerance to internal pressure.

Once again, I have encountered a news story that required me to check and see if it was a hoax.

Tamara Wyche is a 2013 Harvard Law School graduate who is suing the New York State Board of Law Examiners. She claims she twice failed the bar exam because it refused to provide the same kind of testing accommodations that the law school did for her in her exams there, in recognition of her various cognitive problems. The fact that she flunked while being forced to take the exam under the same rules as everyone else resulted in the large Boston law firm Ropes & Gray terminating her employment. You can read her complaint here.

I confess that I didn’t read all of it: I didn’t want to press my luck with the old cranium.

The 29-year-old Wyche says she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a first-year law student at Harvard, and also  suffered several head injuries (?) that resulted in permanent memory problems and cognitive issues, requiring her to take several leaves of absence from her studies. She finally earned her law degree in 2013 thanks to Harvard granting her several doctor-recommended accommodations, including 50% extra time on tests, a separate testing room, and extra break time. She also was exempt from being called on in class, because of a propensity for anxiety and panic attacks.

Allow me to cut to the chase for a second, again in the interest of my dangerously bubbling brains, and perhaps yours. Continue reading

Ethical Jobs Plan: Let’s Put Lawyers in the 99%

19th Century American lawyer without law degree or bar exam credentials. Reputed to be effective, honest.

Despite the fact that such a change might be ruinous for me personally, since a large portion of ProEthics income comes from providing bar association-mandated continuing legal education courses on ethics, I have to endorse the arguments made by Brookings Fellow Clifford Winston and George Mason Law Professor Illya Somin for eliminating barriers to entry in the legal profession, such as mandatory law school attendance, the bar exam, and bar membership.

Winston writes:

“For decades the legal industry has operated as a monopoly, which has been made possible by its self-imposed rules and state licensing restrictions — namely, the requirements that lawyers must graduate from an American Bar Association-accredited law school and pass a state bar examination. The industry claims these requirements are essential quality-control measures because consumers do not have sufficient information to judge in advance whether a lawyer is competent and honest. In reality, though, occupational licensure has been costly and ineffective; it misleads consumers about the quality of licensed lawyers and the potential for non-lawyers to provide able assistance. Continue reading