Tag Archives: betrayal

Wait, WHAT? I Don’t Understand This Case At All: The Louisiana Lawyer’s Betrayal

Robert McCoy (above), facing trial for a triple murder in Louisiana, told his lawyer, Larry English, that he was innocent. Someone else had killed the victims, he insisted. English, however, knew better. He wasn’t buying any of it.

“I met with Robert at the courthouse and explained to him that I intended to concede that he had killed the three victims,” Mr. English stated in a sworn statement. “Robert was furious and it was a very intense meeting. He told me not to make that concession, but I told him that I was going to do so….I know that Robert was completely opposed to me telling the jury that he was guilty of killing the three victims,” Mr. English said. “But I believed that this was the only way to save his life.”

English’s theory was that in the state’s two-phase trail system, he would lose credibility with the jury if he insisted McCoy was wrongly charged in the face of overwhelming evidence He wanted to have the trust of the jurors in the second phase, when he would have to argue that they should spare Mr. McCoy’s life.

After the meeting, Mr. McCoy tried to fire his lawyer, saying he would rather represent himself—So would I— but Judge Jeff Cox refused to let English off the case. So, as promised, English told the jury during his opening statement that his client was a triple murderer. McCoy objected in court, protesting, “I did not murder my family, your honor ! I had alibis of me being out of state. Your honor, this is unconstitutional for you to keep an attorney on my case when this attorney is completely selling me out.”

The objection was over-ruled.  McCoy’s lawyer, the judge apparently believed, knew better than his client what his client’s best interests were.

He didn’t though. McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death despite all of that supposed good will, credibility and trust English had built up by throwing his own client under the criminal justice bus.  The victim of this Bizarro World representation appealed the conviction to the Louisiana Supreme Court, saying his lawyer had turned on him. The court ruled against him,  holding that

“Given the circumstances of this crime and the overwhelming evidence incriminating the defendant admitting guilt in an attempt to avoid the imposition of the death penalty appears to constitute reasonable trial strategy.”

Now the United States Supreme Court is going to consider the case, McCoy v. Louisiana, and the question of whether a lawyer who disregards a client’s explicit instruction to plead not guilty has breached the Constitutional right to counsel.

I am stunned.  What question? Apparently this is a thing in Louisiana. “Counsel’s strategic choices should not be impeded by a rigid blanket rule demanding the defendant’s consent,” Louisiana’s lawyers  wrote in a brief urging the court to pass on the case. Since 2000, the Louisiana Supreme Court has allowed defense lawyers to concede their clients’ guilt in four other capital cases over the clients’ express objections.

Good grief. Continue reading

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That Settles It, If It Wasn’t Obvious Already: Lisa Bloom Is An Unethical Hack (But I Could Be Wrong…)

Now, don’t sue me, Lisa! Remember what it says in the “About” section (above), this is all just my opinion. When I say you are a stunningly unethical lawyer, that’s just my analysis; it’s true I know something about legal ethics, teaching and consulting on it full time, but I can’t assert my opinion as fact. I can’t read your mind or slog through your soul. I don’t know what a bar disciplinary committee would decide, though I know this is a famously gray area in legal ethics, so unethical conduct is unlikely to be punished.  And when I say you’re a hack, remember that “hack” isn’t a description subject to objective proof, any more than, say, “asshole.” Perhaps your definition of “hack’ is different from mine. In fact, I’m sure it is.

That said, your conduct is a professional disgrace. I think. Who knows? I may be wrong.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News published this weekend, Bloom, speaking of her recently terminated representation of Harvey Weinstein, said

“I can see that my just being associated with this was a mistake. All I can say is, from my perspective, I thought, ‘Here is my chance to get to the root of the problem from the inside. I am usually on the outside throwing stones. Here is my chance to be in the inside and to get a guy to handle this thing in a different way.’ I thought that would be a positive thing, but clearly it did not go over at all.”

Bloom added that she will no longer represent men accused of sexual misconduct, “even those who convincingly tell me they are innocent….I will just make the best choices I can out of every situation. I have clearly not been successful. I think anybody who does big bold things fails. And I definitely failed on this one.”

What Bloom has failed at is called “being a trustworthy and competent lawyer.”

The next day, during an appearance on Good Morning America, Bloom even more explicitly threw her former client under the metaphorical bus:

“It’s gross, yeah,” Bloom told GMA. “I’m working with a guy who has behaved badly over the years, who is genuinely remorseful, who says, you know, ‘I have caused a lot of pain.’”

Did Bloom actually graduate from law school, or did she just apprentice in her mother’s office (she is Gloria Allred’s daughter) and somehow get an honorary license? Did she never learn about the a lawyer’s duties of loyalty and confidentiality? She obviously didn’t know about conflicts of interest, since she represented Weinstein while agreeing to let him turn her book into a TV miniseries.

Ethics Alarms has previously criticized lawyers who have publicly undermined their former clients. The most recent example  was last year, when a former Trump lawyer used his experiences while representing the future Presidential candidate decades earlier to write a scathing mid-campaign attack on his former client in the Huffington Post. I wrote,

There is strong disagreement in the profession about whether the answer to “Is this unethical?” should be an outright yes. The status of loyalty among the legal ethics values hierarchy is as hotly contested now as it ever has been. If a lawyer wants to attack a former client in a matter unrelated to the representation and no confidences are revealed in the process, is that a legal ethics breach? If it is, it would be a very tough one to prosecute. I think it’s a general ethics breach, as in wrong and unprofessional. It is disloyal, and clients should be able to trust their lawyers not to come back years later, after a client let the lawyer see all of his or her warts, and say, “This guy’s an asshole.” It undermines the strength of the public’s trust in the profession.

Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: The NAACP. A Really Bad One…

The NAACP, once a heroic and invaluable champion of civil rights, has apparently completed its devolution into a hyper-partisan, race-baiting collection of venal, divisive  hacks. It has been said that every cause inevitably becomes a racket, and the NAACP is now a prime and tragic example.

How do we know this? We know this because the organization has called the decision (finally) by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to command his player to stick to what they are paid for—football and only football—when they are on the playing field, and to stand for the National Anthem “a public commitment by an NFL owner to violate his players’ Constitutional right to free speech.”

This is more than merely ignorant, though if genuine the statement would be unforgivably ignorant for a civil rights organization: a civil rights organization that doesn’t know what civil rights are and what the Bill of Rights means is useless as well as without credibility.

That, however, is impossible. The NAACP has lawyers; their lawyers aren’t idiots. They know that the First Amendment has no relevance or connection to the silly NFL players’ kneeling stunt during the National Anthem. The lawyers had to have informed the NAACP leadership of this, as if that was necessary, which it almost certainly was not. The leadership has to know better than to make this junior high school level civics mistake. No, in this case the NAACP is lying. It is deliberately misinforming the people who depend on it to lead on civil rights, and who trust the organization to be able to support its position with facts and law. It is doing this to inflame passions and worsen the racial divide. What other reason could there be? Continue reading

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From The “Stop Making Me Defend Lawrence O’Donnell!” Files: The Golden Rule

A video has gone viral, mostly thanks to conservative websites and blogs, of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell having an extended meltdown during the taping of his show, full of vulgar, expletive-laden explosions at his staff. Mediaite, the media gossip and news site, first released the video, and stitched together the multiple tantrums to make O’Donnell look especially ridiculous.

The tape resembles some classic moments from “SCTV on the Air,” the satirical syndicated ensemble comedy show ( with John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Ric Moranis, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas) that chronicled the mishaps of a struggling, fictional local TV station. It is indeed funny watching a news anchor lose it, and once he blows his gasket, O’Donnell is spectacular

You will not see Ethics Alarms criticizing O’Donnell, however. Nor will I link to the video.  (The clip of Steve Martin In “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” erupting at an airport rental car employee is as close as I will get.)  I know that I would be humiliated if one of my own bad moments during my work day, or after it, were surreptitiously videotaped and then leaked to the individuals I would least want to see it. I have had episodes, in the sparsely populated ProEthics offices, when stress, frustration, a series of horrible events and my own ineptitude have caused my emotions to boil over, and the resulting displays have not been something I would want shown to my grandchildren. If there is anyone who hasn’t had such episodes, I am awash in admiration.

I came close to having one today, in fact, after a string of annoyances was capped by the receipt of a summons from a deranged former commenter here, who is suing me for defamation because he says I was mean to him (I was; he deserved it) and wants me to pay him $100,000.  The suit is groundless and pure harassment, but I have better things to do with my time than deal with such things, and that did it for me.

My tirades are much more creative and active than O’Donnell’s. Also louder. Ask my wife.

There are few talking heads that I admire less than Lawrence O’Donnell. He is nasty, perpetually angry, and so left-biased that his head probably doesn’t turn to the right. I have been in the dark place where he was, however, and will be again. The only difference is that I do not have working with me the kind of unethical, vicious, back-stabbing  subordinates who would leak a video just to hurt me and my career. Continue reading

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Hurricane Ethics: The Ultimate Betrayal

I can’t bear those photos of abandoned and abused animals, so here’s the never abused  Marshall dog, Rugby. He can trust us. (OK, we can’t always trust him, but he’s a Jack Russell. He has our informed consent to be unreliable.)

Authorities in Palm Beach County, Florida discovered dozens of dogs  left behind by owners who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma, leaving the pets tied up or trapped in cages or pens without any means to escape or survive the storm. Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control was able to rescue 40 such dogs before the storm struck Florida.  Director Dianne Sauve told USA Today that in cases where she can identify owners of these abused animals, she would press felony charges for animal cruelty. “There is absolutely no excuse” for leaving the dogs like that, she said, noting that there are two shelters that allow residents to bring pets along with them.

I don’t comprehend how a human being could do this to an animal that they have accepted the responsibility of caring for. The conduct is an ultimate betrayal of reliance and trust. Dogs always fulfill their ends of the ancient agreement between them and people. They provide companionship, unconditional love, support and comfort in exchange for care and shelter. Abandoning a dog like this—“Hey, what’s the big deal? They’re only animals!”—represents such a basic failure of responsibility, fairness, kindness and caring that no one who betrays a dog so heinously should be trusted in any other field of endeavor or social context. If you don’t respect the lives of animals, that’s fine, but then don’t have pets. Don’t make an animal love you, and then leave it to die in fear and pain. How hard is that? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/17: “Close Encounters,” A Bad Bank, A Jaw-Dropping Tweet, Sentimentalizing DACA, And More

GOOD MORNING!!

1. A remastered “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is in theaters now, and I have mixed feelings about the fact that it is not attracting many ticket-buyers. Spielberg is incapable of making a bad movie, and even his most annoying films (like this one) are thought-provoking and entertaining compared to most of the junk we are getting from Hollywood now. But “Close Encounters” is an unethical movie that bothers me more every time I see it.

The film celebrates hippy spiritual fanaticism for no good reason. Why does everyone get all misty-eyed over these angelic, long-armed  aliens who think they have leave to kidnap human beings, including babies, take them away from their families and disrupt their lives, and then dump them off in another place and time? Why is Richard Dreyfus smiling about that, the idiot? Meanwhile, his character has forgotten about his own wife and kids, never giving them a second thought once he goes E.T. hunting. (And why is Terri Garr treated so badly in her movies by alleged protagonists? Dustin Hoffman used her as a door mat in “Tootsie,” too.)

2. As an addendum to the previous post about DACA ethics, consider this example of how the news media sentimentalizes and propagandizes illegal immigration: the Washington Post’s heart-tugging and misleading story with the headline, “He was brought to Virginia as a toddler, deported at 19. He died in an overheated tractor-trailer trying to return.

“He” was an illegal immigrant, though the Post uses the deceitful “undocumented immigrant” euphemism, as if he lost his library card or something. His name was Frank  Fuentes, and he was quite rightly deported a year after he pleaded guilty to assault and battery as well as grand larceny­/pickpocketing in 2016. He died trying to break the law, and while dealing with the criminals who smuggle people into the U.S. in trucks. The fact that Fuentes didn’t deserve to die is waved by the Post like a crimson flag to distract from the fact that he had no right to be in the U.S., and no right to sneak back in.

Ah, but he was a good man at heart, who “loved skateboarding and music.”  “We all make mistakes,” the post quotes a friend as saying, not noting that this is the go-to rationalization for every law-breaker from Billy the Kid to Joe Arpaio. “He wanted to be better for his family and his mom . . . that’s all he cared about.”

What the Post is doing  isn’t reporting. It is selective, manipulated sentiment designed to obscure the real issues in illegal immigration. This kind of coverage is why polls about “dreamers” reflect shallow emotion-based reflex, not serious, informed consideration.

3. Sam Stein, formerly the Huffington Post’s senior politics editor now writing for  The Daily Beast, tweeted,

Discuss.

4.  The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, announced that the police union’s members will refuse to hold the American flag as planned at the NFL’s Cleveland Brown’s home opener, after nine Browns players took a “Kaepernick” and knelt during the national anthem in a pre-season game with the New York Giants.

“It’s just ignorant for someone to do that,” Steve Loomis told reporters. “It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that’s as offensive as it can get.”

Good for the union. The NFL has been cowardly and irresponsible by not confronting and ending these demonstrations against the United States in general and police in particular, starting with its non-action when the St. Louis Rams performed a “Hands up! Don’t shoot! display in 2014. Kaepernick specifically had said, in his various vague posturings, that police were among the  targets of  his kneeling stunt, making the ignorant statement that officers in police-involved shootings should not collect a salary while investigations were pending (unlike, say, the many NFL players who have been suspects in criminal investigations).

Among the many functions of professional sports teams is to bring communities together, not divide them. Players are free to express their political positions, however ill-informed, off the field if they are willing to take responsibility for them, which may involve negative team action and fan anger. Cleveland, where 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot by an incompetent cop, is an especially sensitive place for an anti-police demonstration to take place.

The comments on the article at the link are depressing, as in knee-jerk and foolish. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/5/17

Good morning!

1. I’ll have more later on the leaked transcripts of the President’s private conversations with the presidents of Mexico and Australia. Whoever did it was betraying his or her superior and the nation, and  needs to be identified and prosecuted. This is malicious sabotage, and nothing less, designed to make it more difficult for this President to function. Those attempting to justify it and rationalize it disqualify themselves as objective critics of the President and also as responsible citizens. The conduct cannot be justified, and no one should attempt to justify it.

The Washington Post publishing the transcripts is a hostile act. True, in today’s Wikileaks world they would have been put online somewhere, but absent some scandalous disclosure in one or both of them, this wasn’t news. The news is that embedded foes of ourelected government are willing to harm the nation in order to undermine the President.

Eventually, the question turned yesterday to why the contents of the transcripts did not prompt any further headlines or allegations of scandal. The answer is that the hoped-for smoking gun proof of the President’s incompetence did not surface in either conversation, so they were no longer of any interest. Ann Althouse, to her credit, waded through the entire exchange with  Peña Nieto, and you can read her analysis. The liberal blogger’s conclusion:

“But what can his antagonists grab onto? They can’t very well oppose crushing the drug gangs or better trade deals. So it’s no wonder they went big with Oh! He insulted New Hampshire! And that’s it for the transcripts. Don’t encourage people to actually read them. They might think Trump did just fine.”

Can’t have that.

2.  Rep. Maxine Waters responded to the leaked discussions by saying that she hoped such leaks continued. She is calling for and endorsing illegal and unethical conduct that is damaging to the United States, as a sitting member of Congress. I wonder if she could say anything, including calling for Trump’s assassination, that would attarct rebuke from her party? I doubt it. I remember the howls of horror from Democrats during the 2016 campaign when candidate Trump said,

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press”

There is no ethical difference between calling for Russia to hack a U.S. citizen’s e-mails and calling for government employees to break the law to reveal secret government communications. If there is a difference, it was that Trump was joking, and Waters is not.

3.  With tattoos more popular and visible than ever, the Federalist is suggesting that there is something wrong with getting them—that is, wrong other than the fact that many people think they are unsightly; that the more people have them, the less effective the things are as statements of rebellion and individuality; that they trigger biases in many people (like me), including employers (Did you know that the Armed Services will to accept a volunteer with more than 25% of his or her body covered by tattoos, on the theory that this is res ipsa loquitur for someone with dubious judgment?); and that they are excessive expenditures for a permanent ink-blotch that the odds say you will regret sooner or later. Continue reading

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