The American Bar Association Has Lost Faith In Professionalism, It Seems.

For as long as I can remember, lawyers took pride in that fact that they could pound away at each other in the court room, shout, sneer, mock and beat an adversary into a metaphorical pulp, and put it all aside the second the case was finished. The idea that being friends, even close friends, with an opposing advocate compromised a lawyer’s determination and willingness to fight for his or her client was an anathema to the whole concept of professionalism. During the Civil War, West Point classmates on opposite sides sometimes met before a battle, shared a whisky, old memories and a few tears, and the next day did their best to kill each other. That mindset was analogous to how I was taught lawyers were supposed to behave, and, indeed, did.

Now the American Bar Association has apparently decided that it was all a myth. In  Formal Opinion 494, “Conflicts Arising Out of a Lawyer’s Personal Relationship with Opposing Counsel,” the ABA expresses doubts that many lawyers are up to the task.

“A personal interest conflict may arise out of a lawyer’s relationship with opposing counsel, the ABA now says. “Lawyers must examine the nature of the relationship to determine if it creates a …conflict and, if so, whether the lawyer reasonably believes the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client who must then give informed consent, confirmed in writing.”

The opinion breaks possible personal relationships into three categories:

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The President Elect’s Happy New Year Tweet, With Musical Reflections From Ethics Alarms

trump-tweet-happy-new-year

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

The reactions to Donald Trump’s tweet above were so predictable.  Trump-haters are continuing their meltdown, because he used that scary word “enemies,” and imagining political foes being hung by piano wire and shot against a wall…maybe even THE wall. Trump’s fans are cheering, “That’s our guy!” Predictable or not, here is the official Ethics Alarms reaction to what may be Trump’s first tweet destined for the Yale Book of Quotations:

1. Get used to this. He’s not going to stop. I recommend re-reading this post from last year, on the Julie Principle. In fact, heeeeere’s Julie!

2. Oh, let’s get this out of the way: it’s a juvenile, undignified, un-Presidential message, and a deliberately provocative thing to do. It also  made me laugh out loud, I have to admit. Really, if you’re going to let this sort of thing drive you crazy, you’re not going to make it through four years. You’re not even going to make it through one. Reserve a padded room. I’m serious. Think about this song, because this is where you’re headed…

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Obama’s “Enemies,” Pat Caddell, and the Cognitive Dissonance Misdirection

The Cognitive Dissonance Misdirection (CDM) is as old as politics. I’ve written about it here before, but finally have decided that it deserves a formal name–especially because it has been shamelessly employed by news media attempting to minimize, obscure or bury legitimate criticisms of Barack Obama and his Administration.

Cognitive dissonance is created when something an individual feels strongly about is associated in some way with something else. If the individual strongly likes, admires, or desires the first thing, cognitive dissonance will draw the second thing into his favor. If the individual intensely dislikes the first thing, he will begin to feel more negatively toward the second thing now linked to it. This why, for example, popular celebrities get product endorsement deals, and unpopular ones don’t. When Denzel Washington or George Clooney says he likes a car, people start liking the car too. If the same car were endorsed by, say, Lindsay Lohan or O.J. Simpson, a lot of people would assume it was a lemon…and they might not even realize why. Cognitive dissonance works its influence subliminally, and that’s why it is such an effective tool of persuasion…and bias.

The media’s version of this has been perfected over the last two years. When a legitimately troubling comment, action, incident or gaffe reflecting badly on the President, his Administration, or his staff occurs, the mainstream media has often not reported the issue straight, as in “This happened,” or “Obama said this,” but by immediately linking the story to the President’s presumably biased adversaries—Republicans, conservatives, and talk radio—and making the criticism the story, as in, “Republicans are attacking President Obama’s  communications director Anita Dunn’s comments that seemed to praise Mao Zedong.” The fact that a high-ranking White House figure praising the greatest mass murderer in history, even in jest, is news, and should be criticized by Left and Right, was muted by the reporting of it. Continue reading