Mid-Day Ethics Interruptions, 6/4/2021: After the First Item, You May Not Want To Read Any More…


1. When ethics alarms were never installed...The question here is not whether this was unethical. Of course it was. The question is how such an episode could happen anywhere in this country. Eight high school football coaches at McKinley Senior High School in Canton, Ohio have been placed on paid leave after apparently forcing a 17-year-old player, a Hebrew Israelite whose faith forbids the consumption of pork, to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of the team as punishment for skipping a practice. The family is suing the school district for violating the student’s First Amendment rights.

The head football coach, Marcus Wattley, allegedly told the boy that if he didn’t eat the pizza, his team mates would be punished. I don’t comprehend this. How can someone live in the U.S. and think forcing a child to violate his faith is anything but abuse? How does someone like Wattley get hired by a public school and entrusted with the welfare of children? Why would any high school have eight assistant football coaches?

If the facts are confirmed in an investigation, more than the coaches should be fired and, one hopes, prosecuted. The principal and other administrators should also be canned. [Pointer: JutGory]

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias…The dozens of ways the mainstream media warps the news and manipulates public opinion becomes oppressive once you are sensitized to it. The headline in the Times two days ago, for example, was “GOP Challenges Teaching of Racism’s Scope.” That headline presumes as fact that “Critical Race Theory” and the “1619 Project” fairly and accurately convey “racism’s scope.” “GOP Challenges What It Calls Anti-White, Anti-America Indoctrination In the Schools” would be a neutral headline. Later in the same article, the news story refers to President Trump’s “racist comments, ” which is just a continuation of a narrative build on a media-fueled Big Lie. President Trump made many insensitive, provocative and politically incorrect comments. None were “racist.”

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Welcome To The World Of “Expert Witnesses”

Then there’s the arrow that reads, “Willingness to say what we need to win the case.”

It doesn’t happen often, but it does pay well and can be interesting: occasionally I accept an engagement as a testifying ethics expert in a law suit. I have a rule, however, that surprisingly (or not) seems to come as a shock to many potential clients. They may be buying my opinion, but they are not necessarily buying the opinion they want. After I review the facts, documents and issues involved, I will render my opinion, but no promises. I won’t take a case unless I generally agree that the theory of the side hiring me is plausible, but after all the facts are in and I’ve done my analysis, if the case of the client whose lawyer hired me is weak, I will say so.

Strangely, some lawyers seem to have a problem with this, even when the expert insisting on integrity is an ethics expert. I am currently in settlement mode with a law firm that hired me to render my opinion regarding the billing submitted by another firm to the law firm’s client. Part of their argument, in claiming malpractice against the billing firm, was that its billing was excessive, unreasonable and inflated, a violation of  Rule 1.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers. I reviewed the billing statements, and they could have been inflated—some of the methods of stating who did what work was vague, and there sure was a lot of work billed on the matter, by an astounding number of lawyers—-but I could only assess that to a level of certainty sufficient to be certain in my own mind, much less state it under oath, if I could examine what all that work produced. This the law firm that hired me refused to produce, perhaps because the time it would have taken me to review it thoroughly would have been very expensive. But how could I decide whether the amount of money billed for a product was unreasonable without being able to determine what the product was? I couldn’t. Thus my written opinion stated what I could say honestly and with authority: based on the billing statements and the materials I was allowed to review,  I could only speculate on whether the billing was proper or not. It was possible. More than that, I could not say.

The law firm was not happy, although they never spoke to me about it. The firm just settled the case, and never paid me. (My very reasonable fee for services was $6,000, and if you’ve ever spent much time reviewing legal billing statements, you would know that they got off cheap.) You see, it didn’t really want an ethics expert, or an independent expert, or an honest, informed, professional analysis. They wanted a pre-determined opinion, bought with cash, delivered to specifications. Well, they won’t get that from me.

Welcome to the world of “expert witnesses.”