Tag Archives: competence

Is Continuing Legal Education A “Farce”?

Continuing legal education, or as it is fondly called, CLE, began being a staple of bar membership in most states by the 1980s. The theory is that the law is always changing and new developments in case law and practice resources are essential for lawyers to know about, so in order to keep practicing in good standing, lawyers should be required to take a set number of training hours to keep up with current techniques and information. The practice is also designed to emphasize the law’s position as a self-regulating profession with exemplary dedication to excellence.

AND the new system allows the bar associations to require the purchase of a product the associations themselves develop, provide, and most important of all,  charge for.

Most lawyers, it is fair to say, loathe mandatory CLE requirements. They resent the time and expense, and generally feel that having to take the courses is an insult.

Yesterday a Virginia lawyer named Paul Sherman—he might even have attended some of my courses!–laid out on Twitter his brief that CLE course are a “farce that do nothing to protect the public and impose big social costs.: Right wing blogger and law prof Glenn Reynolds endorsed the screed, calling CLE a scam. I teach about 45 CLE seminars a year on legal ethics, and I’ve spoken on the subject to the CLE providers association, so this obviously piqued my interest.

Here is Sherman’s argument (and by the way, Twitter is a ridiculous platform for extended commentary):

Since I’ve just finished my last Continuing Legal Education class of the year, allow me to say that these requirements are a farce that do nothing to protect the public and impose big social costs. For those of you who aren’t lawyers (who know this already), allow me to explain.

To continue practicing law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am required each year to take 12 hours of continuing legal education (4 of which must be live) by Oct. 31. Collectively, Virginia lawyers lose more than 290,000 work hours to CLE every year. Almost every lawyer I know satisfies these requirements in the same way: by buying whatever CLE courses are cheapest, regardless of subject. This is not at all surprising, because competent lawyers already stay on top of developments in their practice areas.E.g., I exclusively practice constitutional law, but this year I took CLE courses in international taxation, asset protection planning, independent contractor compliance, etc. None of these have anything to do with my practice, and the VA Bar does not care!

Consider also the direct and indirect monetary costs. Let’s say CLE packages cost $100. According to the National Consumer Law Center, in 2015-2016, the average attorney in Virginia charged $358/hr. That means the cost of these requirements is almost $4,400 per attorney. The total cost for all Virginia lawyers is about $106 million. Yet, of that, only $2.4 million ends up in the pockets of CLE providers. The rest is just value that has been destroyed. Even if we assume (with extreme generosity) that lawyers would voluntarily pay for 6 hours of relevant CLE each year, you’re still losing $50 million in value per year (which is almost exactly Virginia spends on indigent defense annually). In short, we would all be better off if Virginia ended this farce, abolished mandatory CLE, and instead required every Virginia lawyer to send an extra $100 to the Bar and/or to set $100 on fire.

This seems to have touched a nerve, so let’s make this an actual thing. Contact your state bar (mine is @VAStateBar) and tell them to end the shakedown. #EndMCLE!

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Filed under Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Unethical Quote Of The Month, And Also KABOOM!: Pope Francis

“Because of our sins, the Great Accuser always takes advantage – we read in the first chapter from Job – he roams looking for someone to accuse… he is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution as well. …And there is also another type of persecution, of continuous accusations to dirty the Church: the Church must not be dirtied. The children yes, but not the mother, and the mother defends herself from the Great Accuser with prayer and penance. That’s why I asked to pray the Rosary, Our Lady, Saint Michael the Archangel. It’s a difficult moment because through us, the great accuser wants to attack the mother. And you don’t touch a mother”.  

—- Pope Francis, addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican yesterday, claiming that the Catholic Church has been persecuted through accusations related to the clerical child sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy.

I’m really mad at my head for exploding over this. Surely it isn’t a surprise, not after the ongoing accountability-ducking and finger-pointing the Pope and his Church have been engaged in while innocent children are buggered by priests worldwide. Yet somehow I did not, and apparently my head did not, believe that the Pope would be so callous, tone-deaf and, frankly, stupid as to play the victim card when it is not only invalid but guaranteed not to work. “How dare anyone accuse us of covering up child abuse when we have been covering up child abuse for decades, and probably centuries! How dare anyone imply that the Church is accountable when its priests molest children and its leadership choose to protect the molesters instead of the victims!” This is essentially what the Pope is saying (it sounds different in Italian), and he really seems to be oblivious to how awful it not only sounds, but is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Kaboom!, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

Mid-World Series Hangover Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2018: Mike Tyson, Intimacy Coordinators, And The Blackface Teacher Principle

This is how my morning began…

1. To get this out of the way..I watched every  second of every inning on last night’s longest post-season baseball game in history, as any loyal, ethical baseball fan is obligated to do. It was worth it, too, even though my team lost. The game was the sports equivalent of The Odyssey, “War and Peace,” “King Lear,” “The Ring Cycle,” “The Ring Trilogy,” “Nicholas Nickleby” or “The Seven Samurai,” a complex morality and adventure tale that had suspense, disappointment, wonder, exhilaration , humor and tragedy, heroes and villains. Such games reward all of the time and suffering a fan puts into following baseball seriously. It is worth the investment.

Ironically, this epic occurred shorty after the Wall Street Journal published a truly ignorant and idiotic opinion piece called , “Our Insane Ideas to Save Baseball/Baseball has problems. There aren’t enough hits. There are too many pitchers. The games take too long. So we bullpenned our solutions. Are you ready for Strike Four?”

It is a wonderful example of the incompetent variety of criticism I call “Wanting to change what you haven’t taken the time to understand.” I get it: the authors don’t like baseball, and barely pay attention to it., or, in the alternative, they are just seeking clicks. In any event, you can’t argue with people who say that the problem with opera is that it’s too often in a foreign language, or that the problem with hip hop is that it isn’t music, and shouldn’t, or that the problem with our democracy is that people can say things that upset other people. And you shouldn’t argue with them. They don’t respect the topic enough to be educated about it.

2. Of course, baseball games ARE too long, and the overwhelming reason is TV ads, which add about a half hour to every game, and more to post-season games. The disgusting response of Fox is to stick 10 second commercials into a split screen during the game, like between batters. Here’s a slugger walking to the plate in a tense situation, and half the screen is devoted to a quickie plug for “Ralph Breaks The Internet.” I hope fans are burning up social media attacking this greedy new form of broadcast pollution.

3. How is this possible? In a #MeToo Mad era when simply being accused of sexual assault without proof is deemed by even lawyers who should know better as sufficient justification to inflict serious and permanent consequences on the accused, Mike Tyson is the star of an animated TV show, is cast in movies, and is now shopping a TV show, based on the ex-boxer’s life as a marijuana grower and marketer, starring him and called “Rolling With the Punches.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Social Media

Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

You know, one could make a strong argument that the misadventures of a richly compensated  morning TV host is not worth thinking about, arguing about, or even paying attention to. The problem is that in trivial events vital enlightenment often reside. We ignore the Megyn Kelly mess at great risk. There are many ethics lessons there.

The Megyn Kelly fiasco started long before her self-immolation over the now-radioactive topic of Halloween costumes, but let’s begin there. In case you missed it (that is, you have a life), Kelly was using her special segment of the “Today Show” to moderate a round-table discussion of how, as she put it,  “the costume police are cracking down” on Halloween costumes. The former Fox News host and Donald Trump irritant decided to emulate the President and blunder into a political correctness minefield.

“What is racist?” she mused. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as a character.” Then she talked about the travails of Luann de Lesseps, a member of the cast of the Bravo reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” who was criticized for dressing up as Diana Ross, complete with skin-tone.  Megyn found the criticism  passing strange.

By the end of the week, Kelly had issued a tearful on-air apology and others on social media. She had been condemned by “Today” colleagues and NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, went even further at a midday staff meeting, saying,“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”

Then NBC announced that “Megyn Kelly Today” was cancelled, and so was Kelly’s 19 million dollar a year employment, subject to the result of negotiations between her lawyers and NBC’s.

Observations: Continue reading

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Call Me Cynical, But When A Religious Leader Responds To A Scandal This Way, I Check My Pockets…

The Pope takes a page from Jimmy’s playbook!

Last week the Vatican  began a three-week-long assembly to discuss how to bring young people back into the Catholic Church. As the Synod of Bishops began, Pope Francis said, “This moment has highlighted a church that needs to listen.”

No, the moment  highlights a church that needs to stop letting its priests molest kids.

Protesters have been much in evidence at the gathering,  denouncing what they (and I) see as the Vatican’s refusal to take necessary actions to ensure that sexual predator priests and those who cover up for them be stopped. Said one protester, a victim himself, “They should center the discussions where it hurts most — and this is the outrageous abuse of power, and the thousands and thousands of children and young people hurt by officials of the church in the last decades all over the world. You can’t discuss youth without talking about this point.”

Other victims held up placards demanding, “No More Cover Up”; “Make Zero Tolerance Real”; “Establish an International Inquiry and Justice Commission”  in Italian and English.

So far, the Pope’s approach to the renewed scandal has been to point fingers, or change the subject. He did publish a letter in August that appeared to be a holy, Italian version of “huminahuminahumina,” as Ralph Kramden used to say when words and wit failed him in a crisis. That the Pope’s efforts to either ignore, or duck, or spin his accountability for the fact that children are still not safe around priests almost 20 years after the scandal of high-level cover-ups and the facilitating of serial sexual assaults in the Church across the globe were not going well became clearer than ever last week, when Francis adopted the same tragedy used by Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Lee Baker, Ted Haggard and so many other TV evangelist con artists did when they were caught either with a hand up a dress or in the till.

He blamed the Devil. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/30/18: Gay Bashing, A Stupid Social Experiment, And The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Keeps Rolling Along…

Good Morning!

It’s the last day of the regular season for baseball, or should be: there could be two tie-breakers tomorrow, and they are officially considered part of the season. There were more baseball ethics posts this year than ever before. You can review them here.

1. And now for something completely stupid. I was temped to make this a free-standing post, but it triggered my stupid alarm, and doesn’t deserve it.

In Los Angeles, Boguslaw Matlak  and Laura Quijano decided to stage a “social experiment” to determine whether bystanders would act to protect an  endangered child. As their hidden cameras ran, they stuffed their 3-year-old son Leo into the trunk of their car. In truth, the back of the trunk had been rigged so Leo could climb into the back seat. He was in no danger.

“I was thinking maybe I should do a video to show people that they should do something about it when they see something wrong, to get involved,” Matlak said.  They got involved, all right. Witnesses called the cops, who arrested the couple and took Leo into protective custody.  The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services  placed the child with a relative. For the last three weeks, the couple has been trying to get him back.

“They are hurting my son emotionally at this point,” Quijano told reporters. “He’s not home with his parents who love him very much and what else do they want from us? I just don’t understand at this point.”

The agency recently informed the parents that it would would be returning Leo to their custody. Matlak  now faces one count of misdemeanor child endangerment.

Observations:

  • Ethics lesson #1: Don’t use human beings as props.
  • Ethics lesson #2: Three-year-olds can’t consent to such treatment.
  • Ethics lesson #3: Police have enough to do dealing with real crimes. Staging fake ones to see what will happen should be illegal, if it isn’t already.
  • What’s there to complain about? The social experiment was a success!
  • Is proof that parents of a small child are idiots sufficient to remove him? No, I suppose not.
  • The problem with this episode is that the child, who was innocent of wrong doing, is the primary one being punished.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Social Media

Wait…Condemning A Pope’s Mass Cover-Up Of Sexual Abuse Of Children By Priests Is Partisan Now? [UPDATED*]

I saw a hint of this when I noticed this week that my 90% leftist Facebook friends scrupulously avoided commenting on my cross-posted article about the current Pope’s likely complicity in the ongoing Roman Catholic Church child sexual abuse cover-up while metaphorically foaming at the mouth because the White House flag wasn’t at half mast. Then the New York Times started spinning. An article by Jason Horowitz titled “Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce”  argued that conservatives were “weaponizing” the scandal in order to minimize the influence of Pope Francis, who has aroused the Right’s ire by “going soft” on homosexuality and by becoming a shill for climate change. Horowitz wrote,

“Just how angry his political and doctrinal enemies are became clear this weekend, when a caustic letter published by the Vatican’s former top diplomat in the United States blamed a “homosexual current” in the Vatican hierarchy for sexual abuse. It called for Francis’ resignation, accusing him of covering up for a disgraced cardinal, Theodore E. McCarrick.”

What? Heaven forfend that someone suggest that a hypocritical homosexual factor at high levels of the Church might be partially responsible for a policy of allowing male priests to continue to rape little boys! That’s minor, however, compared to the triple “What?” earned by the writer and the Times for implying that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s  a letter accusing Pope Francis of covering up Cardinal McCarrick’s abuses while also taking his counsel on appointing bishops was merely a political ploy. This is one more example of the tactic of using alleged mixed motives to delegitimize an ethical act. So what if Viganò is a Vatican dissident? The evidence is overwhelming that the Catholic Church has facilitated child abuse for at least decades (See: “Spotlight”), that this continued on Pope Francis’s watch (See: the recent grand jury report), that the Pope is accountable, that his statement was a weaselly mess of accountability-skirting platitudes, and that Viganò’s accusations appear to have validity. Continue reading

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