Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading

Observations On The Trump Jr. “Collusion” Attempt [UPDATED]

1.  Preet Bharara, the ex-U.S. attorney fired by the Trump Administration, tweets…

Quick reminder: something doesn’t have to be illegal for it to be foolish, wrong and un-American.

True. When Donald Trump, Jr. was informed that a Russian lawyer wanted to meet with him to pass along damaging information about Hillary Clinton, he should have gone to the FBI immediately, because this could have been indicative of a national threat. Instead he said “Whoopie!” or words to that effect. Moron.

But we knew that.

*Notice of Correction: In the original post, I erroneously stated that Bharara had joined Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference with the election. That was incorrect. I apologize. I was confused by this headline from the Washington Examiner: Special counselor adds former Preet Bharara prosecutor to Russia probe: Reports. It’s a bad headline, but I should have read the whole article. Careless.

2. Similarly, if Danny Jr told Kushner and Manafort what he was told the meeting would be about, THEY should have told him that the meeting was a bad idea, and to report it. They are slime-bags, and none too bright either.

We knew that, too.

3. It may be pure moral luck that this didn’t turn into a serious breach of election laws. But the fact is that no information changed hands, as far as we know. There was no “collusion,” which isn’t a legal term anyway.

4. The New York Times, from its good side, actually detailed the legal realities of the case, which ironically show how absurdly over-heated and misleading its own coverage is. The Times consulted with legal experts who said,

  • The events made public in the past few days are not enough to charge conspiracy.  Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor said the revelations are important because if further evidence of coordination emerges, the contents of the emails and the fact of the meeting would help establish an intent to work with Russia on influencing the election…at least on Donald Trump Jr.’s part.

But as has been the situation throughout, the episode is still waiting for real evidence of genuine collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and this wasn’t it. The anti-Trump mob, in the news media and out of it, is so, so eager, so desperate, to prove sanctionable wrongdoing that it is pouncing on everything that contains a shred of hope.

  • There has to be an underlying federal offense that is being conspired to be committed. So far, there is no evidence of that, and the aborted meeting with the Russian lawyer didn’t come close.

If the e-mails released yesterday specified that what was being offered had been obtained by an illegal computer hack, that would  be enough. They didn’t. Continue reading

Nom De Plume Ethics: Yet Another News Flash The Mainstream Media Is Burying To Protect Clinton And Obama

"Time to e-mail Hillary..."

“Time to e-mail Hillary…”

From Politico….

President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.The 189 pages the bureau released includes interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials…In an April 5, 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin was shown an email exchange between Clinton and Obama, but the longtime Clinton aide did not recognize the name of the sender.

“Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be pseudonym used by the president, Abedin exclaimed: ‘How is this not classified?'” the report says. “Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email.”

I chose Politico because it is a left-leaning political website and because its story, which is virtually word for word the same as similar reports on conservative sites like those of the Washington Times and and The Hill, includes the intriguing words “and others” that the conservative sites mysteriously omit.If Obama only used the pseudonym to communicate with Hillary, it would strongly suggest that he knew she was using an insecure private server all along, and that he tacitly approved it. Obama denied that last year, when he told CBS News that he learned about the home-brewed server from newspaper reports. It would mean that he lied, and would indicate that Obama was a full and knowing participant in Clinton’s efforts to hide her communications from scrutiny by Congress and public  FOIA requests.

Continue reading

Law vs. Ethics: The Infuriating Big Branch Mine Disaster Sentence

UBBMemorial

We really have to change sentencing guidelines so that white-collar criminals get the sentences they deserve.

Twenty nine men were killed in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion six years ago, and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who was  found guilty of conspiring to avoid safety regulations that could have prevented those deaths, received only a one-year prison sentence and a fine.

A federal jury convicted Blankenship last year of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch. The jury acquitted him of felonies that could have put him in jail for 30 years. The judge handed down the stiffest sentence allowed for his misdemeanor conviction, but U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, prosecutors and the family members said later that the punishment was far too lenient for the nature of the crime.

Indeed it was. Corporations play the odds in a risk-reward game. If violating rules, regulations and laws can save or make millions and the eventual penalty when and if the company is prosecuted is only a fine, many companies and executives think it’s a risk worth taking. . If the risk also includes significant prison sentences for decision-makers, the risk-reward ratio changes significantly.

Blankenship was CEO of a company that intentionally risked the lives of its employees, and 29 men died. One year in jail looks like a rap on the wrist. Forget about the “Affluenza” kid: this sentence is far more disturbing.

“This man has no remorse at all!” a family member of one of the victims said. “He never approached none of us [after the mine disaster], he never told us he was sorry for what happened, and he knows he could have done the right thing.”

“I miss my family. (Blankenship) hugged his,”  he continued. “And all he gets is a year. The judge has done great; she gave him what she can give him. But there need to be stricter, more harsh penalties for people like that who put greed and money over human life.”

Yes.

When Is It Ethical For Lawyers To Testify Against A Client? Here’s An Example…

Next time, stick to baseball hypotheticals, Darrell.

Next time, stick to baseball hypotheticals, Darrell.

From Panama City, Florida comes this rare legal ethics scenario. Darryl Mack, 22, accepted 20 years of prison in exchange for a no contest plea to a murder charge, after he learned that his original attorney in the case would be testifying for the prosecution. The revelation by an accused  criminal’s own lawyer of what most think are privileged statements would be devastating evidence, which is why lawyers are almost always prohibited by the ethics rules from doing this.  Mack had been trying to block the testimony on that basis. However, Circuit Court Judge James Fensom ruled those statements could be used against Mack at trial. Why? It is because of a useful and necessary exception to the ethics rules known as the crime-fraud exception.

If you are a “Breaking Bad” fan, this one of the reasons Saul is a crook, not a lawyer.

“The last thing a lawyer wants to do is testify against his client,” the prosecutor in the case explained. “But it is not reasonable to ask your lawyer to be your conspirator.” That means that a request for such advice is regarded by the profession as a request for assistance in breaking the law, and a lawyer cannot ethically give such advice. Such a request isn’t confidential, and isn’t privileged. A lawyer doesn’t have to reveal such information, but he also risks being charged as an accessory if the proposed crime is committed.

Timothy Hilley, Mack’s initial legal counsel, testified in a closed courtroom that Mack had posed a hypothetical to him at the end of a jailhouse interview, and Hilley viewed it as a veiled statement of  intent to commit murder. Mack allegedly asked his then defense counsel what would happen if a witness was unavailable for the trial, a question Hilley took to refer to a witness to the July shooting death of 24-year-old Tavish Greene, the victim in the murder Mack was charged with.

“Mack was on his way to leave, and he walked over to door and he said, ‘Could those statements be used if he was murdered,’” Hilley testified.
“I said, ‘No, it would be hearsay.’” Mack then asked, “How much time do I have?” Hilley said. “And I didn’t catch it at first, but then he asked again, ‘How long before trial?’ ” Mack left the room after Hilley told him the trial could begin as soon as June.  The lawyer reported the incident to the State Attorney’s Office, and withdrew as Mack’s attorney. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Professor, the Plot, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Prisoner's Dilemma

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Professor Peter Frölich teaches “Intermediate Programming,” “Computer Science Fundamentals,” and “Introduction to Programming for Scientists and Engineers” at Johns Hopkins University. He uses a grading system in which the top score in any exam defines an A, and all other scores are graded down from that point (I like that system, by the way).

His students in all three courses hatched an ambitious conspiracy to ensure A’s for everyone.  They all agreed to refuse to enter the exam rooms, so the top score, and only score, anyone could get would be zero. Since the grading curve would have to start with that, they reasoned, everyone would have to get the top grade. The students stringently enforced their plot, apparently, and nobody broke ranks. Continue reading

Hyundai: Ethics Corrupter

As we try to build an ethical culture, it doesn’t help to have amoral corporations employing ethics-challenged advertising flacks to send America toxic messages about honesty and trust. Hyundai, in its campaign for the 2013 Santa Fe, represents family members keeping secrets from each other and parents enlisting their children as accomplices in lies as funny, normal and cute. “Don’t tell mom,” a father orders, in the midst of a movie that will give his young children nightmares, and other misadventures (including one incident of father-led vandalism.). “Don’t tell Dad,” says Mom, after taking her son parasailing. I’m presuming she’ll have to tell him when her son breaks his neck on their next flight. Continue reading

Atlanta Parents’ Verdict: Cheating’s No Big Deal; Grades Are What Matter!

Atlanta's integrity is burning, and its students are the victims

Here is one reason American education is in the sorry state that it is.  And speaking of sorry states, how about that Georgia?

After  revelations of a massive conspiracy among teachers and administrators across Atlanta’s schools to fix the scores on state-mandated tests, parents at least one of the schools vocally supported the teachers involved. At a town hall meeting, parents praised the education their children received from the cheaters.

“We’ve been extremely pleased with the instruction my children have received,” said Quinnie Cook-Richardson, a parent at the West Manor Elementary School. Her child’s teacher had him reading within a year, she said. “They are an example of what is right with Atlanta Public Schools.” Cook-Richardson was among a many parents who defended the school, teachers and  the principal who has been asked to resign as a result of the scandal.

Why are parents defending cheating school personnel? They are defending them because the parents don’t care about cheating, ethics or integrity; they just care about their children getting good grades on the tests. They care about results and credentials and their children succeeding, and if cheating helps, that’s just fine with them. This why their children cheat, as they almost certainly do and will; it is also why the teachers and administrators cheated. It isn’t the culture of the schools that is corrupt;  it’s the culture of the entire community, parents and students included.

And are we so naive that we can believe that this corrupt culture, in which education is seen as nothing but marks on a transcript, and values like integrity and honesty are seen as impediments to “education” rather than  part of it, is confined to a few schools, or Atlanta, or Georgia?

This our nation’s culture in 2011.

We had better start recognizing it, and repairing it.

Fast.

A Harsh Lesson We Must Learn From Atlanta’s Teachers

There isn’t much enlightening to say about the unfolding Atlanta teacher cheating scandal, but its implications must be faced, as difficult as that is.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal revealed this week that award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by teachers and principals. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation identified 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom have confessed – in the biggest cheating scandal in US history. Not the first one, however; there have been a lot of them recently, across the country. The media is pointing to the U.S. education system’s increasing dependence on standardized tests as “the problem.”

I see: the testing made them do it. Continue reading

All-Star Election Cheaters: The Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game team voting by the fans is hardly a model of fair democracy. Most fans vote for their favorites rather than the best qualified players, and are not very informed even about their favorites. They also are guided more by loyalty than analysis, choosing local heroes over more accomplished players from another team. In other words, it’s basically the same as political elections.

Well, there are other factors that make the All-Star Game voting less than admirable. You can vote up to 25 times from each e-mail address, giving an edge to computer geeks. The teams in the biggest cities and with the best attendance have an advantage over the rest, because there are more of their fans voting. And players on teams like the Phillies, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees that are on national TV a lot, along with last season’s World Series adversaries, the Texas Ranger and the San Francisco Giants, have more name recognition nationwide, giving their players another unfair edge.

Still, it is an election, the votes count, and the various franchises should be trying to uphold whatever minuscule smidgen of integrity the current system has. The Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants, however, don’t think they have enough advantages in the  All-Star voting already, and have found a loophole in the rules that allows them to cheat. Continue reading