Tag Archives: conflicts of interest

Ethics Quiz: The DNR Tattoo

 Paramedics brought a 70-year-old man to the University of Miami hospital emergency room after finding him on the street, intoxicated and unconscious. Doctors tried to revive him got no response. Then they had an unusual problem: The man had a ‘Do not resuscitate’ tattoo on his chest, with a line under the ‘not.’ There was also something that looked like his signature. Tattoos are not legally-binding DNR orders, and in Florida, there are  very specific requirements for DNRs. to be legal.  Both a doctor and the patient must sign it, and they must be on paper, not on chests.

The doctors decided to respect the man’s tattoo. They did not try to revive him after the initial efforts failed

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Was that the right call?

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President Trump’s First Year: The Ethics Alarms Ethics Audit

 

I planned to do this on November 8, but other matters intervened. Properly I should wait until January, I suppose. Yet I don’t see the grades changing significantly in a month or two.

For the most part, this ethics audit doesn’t consider policy matters. Calling policies unethical is usually a cheap shot and an expression of partisan priorities. I believe that the DACA is unethical; many believe that killing it would be unethical. I could not make a useful analysis using these kinds of controversies.

To keep this simple, I’m going to use the relevant ethical values listed in the Josephson Institute’s Six Pillars of Character, and add some extra categories at the end. As a preface, I have to say that there aren’t many surprises here. I had already concluded long ago that the concept of ethics is meaningless to Donald Trump. In Three Circles terms, he has only one circle, his own, and a Core circle unmoored to either a formal code of ethics or public standards of conduct will only be ethical by accident. I was hopeful that, like other Presidents of dubious character and troubling pasts when they reached office, Trump might make a concerted effort to adopt more traditional Presidential ways. This was always a long-shot, and so far, I see no signs of it happening.

Here are President Trump’s ethics grades through November of his first term, with comments and explanations where needed: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: The New York Times, Regarding Legal Ethics Dunce David Boies’s Ride On The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck

There are a lot of ethics issues, legal and otherwise, flying around in the shocking—this really is shocking—revelation that lawyer Al Gore’s Supreme Court lawyer (and loser) David Boies was working to help Harvey Weinstein intimidate and discredit the women who were preparing to accuse him of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

The New Yorker reports in an investigative reporting piece that the Boies firm was retained by Weinstein, and on his behalf hired Black Cube, an investigative company run by former Israeli intelligence agents to prevent the publication of abuse allegations by creating profiles on the targeted accusers, often using pretexting–that is, lies— to gain access to proprietary information. Black Cube’s work included psychological profiles and sexual histories of the potential Weinstein accusers. The engagement with Black Cube  was presumably run through Boies Schiller Flexner  to place the shady matter under attorney-client privilege.

David Boies personally signed the contract with Black Cube, which, according to the New Yorker, was to obtain ” intelligence which will help the Client’s—that is, Weinstein’s— efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book currently being written [that] includes harmful negative information on and about the Client.”

Did you see “Michel Clayton,” where George Clooney played a law firm’s “fixer”? That’s what Boies was doing here. “Fixing.” And fixing is a dirty business.

That “leading NY newspaper” was and is the New York Times, which, as we now know, was readying its own sensational story regarding the accusations against Weinstein.The New York Times was also a client of Boies Schiller Flexner, though on unrelated matters, hence the statement above. Unsurprisingly, the Times has sacked Boies and his boys.

[Aside: Here’s a lawyer ethics practice tip. If a client asks you to contract with a company called “Black Cube,” “CHAOS,’ “The Legion of Evil,” “The Black Hand,” or “Murder, Inc.”, just say no.]

Some ethics questions and answers: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/6/17: Oh, Great, A Predictably Dishonest Post-Shooting Response, While Democrats Defend Conflicts, Corruption And Stereotyping

Good Morning!

1 I thought the weekend’s violence story was going to only be Senator Rand Paul getting attacked and beaten up by his next-door neighbor, a frustrated socialist, but no. Then we learned that a madman in Sutherland Springs, Texas had opened fire on a church congregation and killed at least 26, wounding another 30 or more.

It now appears that the shooter was not permitted to purchase or own guns, which means that no law, short of gun banning and confiscation—good luck with that in Texas—could have prevented the massacre. Nevertheless, the immediate—can I say hair-trigger?—response from predictable anti-Second Amendment demagogues came in waves. Notable was the country’s #1 demagogue—and yet she persists!—Bay State Senator Elizabeth Warren, who in successive tweets signaled her gun-fearing virtue to gentle progressives, presumably the ignorant ones:

“I’m heartsick for the victims, families & community of Sutherland Springs. But I’m more than heartsick – I’m angry…How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country’s gun policies?…How many kids must die of gun violence on playgrounds & streets every day with no attention at all before we wake up to what’s happening?…Thoughts & prayers are not enough, GOP. We must end this violence. We must stop these tragedies. People are dying while you wait.”

What does this mean? All it means is “Do something! ARRGH!” That is not a mature, rational, professional and responsible reaction from an elected official. The other thing it means is “repeal the Second Amendment,” which is the anti-democratic position of most of Warren’s supporters and followers. Since this episode would not have been prevented by anything but preventing the availability of guns nationwide, except, of course, to the government the public does not trust, Warren is doing nothing more nor less than blaming Republicans and the NRA for a lunatic’s rampage no one could have foreseen or prevented. This, in turn, ramps up the partisan and ideological hatred and division that has been the strategy of Democrats for a full year now, and that leads to Republicans being shot on baseball fields, Senators being mauled by socialist neighbors, and maybe even some mass shootings.

Then we have the muddled and useless “thinking” conveyed by this kind of fatuous commentary, which, to summarize, argues that we need “new ideas” and that a single maniac’s single act from motives nobody yet knows tells us that the rest of the public is devoid of optimism and hope. The author’s candidate for a “new idea”? “Maybe we need to start thinking about guns the way one physician has started thinking about opioids.”

Or maybe we should take a gun apart, put it in a brown paper bag, spin it over our heads and scream like a chicken. Although that’s not exactly new…

On the conservative side, gun defenders are making great hay out of the apparent fact that the killer was pursued and perhaps killed by legally gun-toting church neighbors. That’s moral luck, and nothing more.

2. The Democratic Party really is doubling down on its denials of Donna Brazile’s not-quite-whistle-blowing-since-the game-she-helped-try-to-cheat-in-was-over- a-year-before -she-blew. Amazing. I heard Robbie Mook, Hillary’s incompetent and corrupt former campaign manager, argue that Bernie’s campaign could have bought into the DNC too, so Brazile’s accusation is unfair. The agreement that gave the Clinton campaign control over the DNC was cut in 2015, before the Sanders campaign was anything but a hope, a prayer, a lark and a shadow. Of course Clinton had money: she had been gathering a coronation war chest for years. This was a bright line, classic, conflict of interest by the Democrats, and one that created a terrible appearance of impropriety (because it WAS improper) , except that it was kept a secret. That the Democrats deny this indicates that they don’t know what is inappropriate, and don’t see anything wrong with conflicts of interest as long as they suit their needs.

In other words, the party is corrupt, and likes it that way. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2017: Train Wrecks, Rationalizations, Donna, Debbie, And More

Goooooood MORNING!

(I’m over-compensating: I feel horrible today)

1  “These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately.The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state,” said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin  after it was revealed that Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) recently settled a sexual harassment claim made by a female member of his staff.

What an ethically clueless bit of grandstanding from Bevin. The fact that an accusation hasn’t been denied doesn’t make it true. The fact  an out of court settlement was agreed to doesn’t make the accusation true either. Bevin has just painted a target on any official’s back who might have blundered across a line of workplace propriety once, and done so with an employee with an agenda, a grudge, a bill to pay, or the lack of the ethical intelligence to say, “That was wrong, don’t do it again.”

As usual with elected officials, Bevin is playing human pendulum, pronouncing an unfair and unreasonable standard in response to a culture where there previously were few standards at all.

Thought experiment: let’s say the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck revealed itself in the Obama administration, and the uncomfortable woman in this photo…

..goes to Vice President Biden after the shoot and accuses him of sexual harassment, indeed, sexual assault. Uncle Joe apologizes, swears he meant nothing by it, says he always acts like this (because he apparently does), jokes his favorite magician is “David Cop-A-Feel”, just like President George H.W. Bush, but the young woman is adamant. She says she will go to the press and file a lawsuit unless he writes a check. Reluctantly, he does.

Should the Vice-President resign? Or just learn to keep his hands to himself?

2. Sentimentalists and socialists mourning the decline of unions just got a splash of metaphorical ice water in their faces.

After reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading online news sources, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, the sites’ owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, announced that both were defunct.

 “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he said. Ricketts had lots money in every month of DNAinfo’s existence, while The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily News were also cutting staff and costs. What were his writers and editors thinking? 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.

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Here We Go Again: Harvey Weinstein, Lisa Bloom And The Thing About Lawyer Ethics That The Public And The News Media Just Cannot Seem To Grasp

LawNewz writes, and in so doing wins a Legal Ethics Dunce so easily that I’m not even going to bother,

Feminist attorney Lisa Bloom, who has represented dozens of women against accused sexual harassers like Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly, is now representing an alleged sexual harasser. In, quite frankly, a shocking move, Bloom agreed to give her “advising” services to film studio executive Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of harassing women over a thirty-year timespan. Immediately, many in the legal world wondered what would motivate such a principled women’s rights advocate to represent a man facing such sordid accusations.

Weird! I have the strangest feeling I have been here before…it’s Ethics Alarms déjà vu!

No, I have been here before, and if you’ve read the blog regularly, so have you, like here, for example, when the post was called,  No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes.or here, when I defended Hillary Clinton….yes, you read that right…when she was being called a hypocrite for once defending not only a child rapist, but a guilty child rapist.  Then there was this post, when liberal icon Larry Tribe was representing a coal company. Bloom, Tribe, Estrich and Hillary all have the same defense, not that lawyers should need a defense for being lawyers.

Let’s see…I think I’ll quote myself from the Hillary piece this time… Continue reading

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