About The Cosby Verdict

Serial rapist and sexual predator Bill Cosby was found guilty today. From the New York Times:

A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.

The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.

Observations:

1 Good. Cosby should be serving hard time for rape. This verdict won’t accomplish that, and he has the resources to keep the matter tied up in appeals, maybe even forcing a new trial. Never mind: the verdict itself is satisfying punishment for a true ethics villain.

2. The verdict overcame the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, and that’s no mean feat. The jury deserves a lot of credit. Here, for the umpteenth time, is the scale:

Celebrities—or the characters they are identified with— are typically so high on the scale ( think of Bill/Cliff Huxtable as a plus 100) that even the evidence of a crime can’t pull them down sufficiently for jurors to be able to resolve the dissonance when they are thinking, “But he’s a great man and a wonderful person! How could he do these things?” The dissonance creates automatic reasonable doubt, all by itself, at least with enough jurors to ensure a mistrial, as in Cosby’s first trial. Hence O.J. Errol Flynn was acquitted of statutory rape. Robert Blake (“Baretta”) was acquitted of murdering his wife. Bill Cosby figured to have an unusually strong celebrity shield, but several  factors overcame it:

  • the amount of evidence against him.
  • the fact that what he did represented such a betrayal of his public image
  • the judge allowing, in the re-trial, other victims to testify
  • the series of previously admired show business figures who have been exposed as predators and sexual abusers since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck pulled out of the station, and
  • the fact that Cosby peak celebrity was decades ago.

If the trial had occurred at the time of “The Cosby Show,” I wonder if any evidence could have convinced a jury to convict him. Continue reading

December 8, 2017, When Our Old And New News Media Proved Beyond A Doubt That They Were Untrustworthy And If Not Completely Useless, Close Enough For Horsehoes

I am marking down today to cite the next time someone tells me that the news media isn’t disastrously biased, or that President Trump is threatening the First Amendment when he tweets about “fake news” or untrustworthy journalists.

Or perhaps, as an alternative, I will hurl myself into a woodchipper.

Democracy cannot survive, must less thrive, without an informed citizenry, which can only be achieved with an objective, independent, competent journalism sector.

We no longer have one. Behold the nauseating developments of today: Continue reading

Dear Lisa Bloom, You Unethical Hack: Stop Making Me Defend Kathy Griffin!

I had to get this post up before the Morning Ethics Warm-Up, because it warmed ME up by almost exploding my head.

Lisa Bloom, the daughter of feminist muck-raking celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, has already shown the she has either no regard for legal ethics, or is spectacularly ignorant of them. She has publicly breached the duty of loyalty, attacking her former client, Harvey Weinstein; she took on Weinstein in the teeth of a blatant conflict of interest that she also publicized, as if it was something to be proud of. Yesterday, she showed that she is unfamiliar with, or perhaps just doesn’t give a damn about, the core legal ethics principle of confidentiality, perhaps the most important legal ethics duty of all.

Her latest ex-client to be the victim of Bloom’s unprofessional conduct and disloyalty is Kathy Griffin, she of the severed head. Griffin announced that she had fired Bloom, and wasn’t nice about it—but then when is Griffin ever nice?—saying, “Yes, I got Bloomed. Yes, I didn’t have a good experience with her. Yes, I feel that she and her husband exacerbated my personal situation.” Disaffected clients can say anything they choose about their lawyers. They can do it on Yelp, on the lawyer consumer site Avvo,  to the Hollywood Reporter or hire a skywriter. What a client says, mean or not, untrue or not, still  does not alter a lawyer’s continuing ethical obligations one whit. A lawyer cannot get into a public fight with a former client over what did or did not occur during the representation. Every lawyer knows this, or is supposed to.

Yet Bloom—I would say “incredibly” had we not seen other examples of her professional ethics cluelessness—released this statement on Twitter:

[My head told me in a statement that it would have exploded over this but determined that doing so over Kathy Griffin and Lisa  Bloom was demeaning to head-explosions. I concur.]

The fact that Bloom had prepared Griffin’s remarks for the press conference, the fact that they worked on them together, the fact that Griffin discarded them, the fact the performer “ad-libbed” and “extemporized” are all client confidences. For all we knew, Griffin’s claim during the press conference that she was ignoring her notes was part of a pre-planned strategy.  I assumed it was; Griffin is an actress. “It’s best if you show that you are talking from the heart, Kathy,” is advice I would expect Griffin’s lawyer to give. A lawyer cannot tell the public that a client ignored her advice. Only the lawyer and the client know that. Revealing it is to disclose information the lawyer learned during the course of the representation that will harm or embarrass the client, a serious ethics violation and betrayal of trust Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Gloria Allred

crying-george-2

“If Hillary signed off on a private investigator, let’s call it a minus. It wouldn’t change my support for her because there are so many pluses for her, like her stance on abortion.”

Feminist attorney Gloria Allred, responding to a New York Times report regarding Hillary Clinton’s efforts to intimidate and discredit her husband’s various female accusers.

This is the language of corruption and ethics cowardice, and it is very close to a majority mindset among Americans., who increasingly rationalize away what should be taken as unquestionable proof that a leader or potential leader is untrustworthy and therefor unqualified to lead. In respect to the Clintons, this is a flashback: feminists like Gloria Steinem betrayed their central principles to make rationalizations for Bill Clinton during the Monica scandal (which was a about workplace harassment and a President lying under oath, not about illicit sex), again because he supported abortion.

Here, on Ethics Alarms, the never-ending debate concerns  whether leaders should be chosen based on their positions, or their character. That the two parties are officially all-in betting that character is both irrelevant  to governing and to the voting public is proven by the disgusting Clinton-Trump choice. The message is that character doesn’t matter at all, which makes it more than  strange that the news media and the Clinton campaign’s primary focus is on attacking Trump’s character. If character mattered as it once did and should, Trump wouldn’t be nominated, and neither would Hillary. If sufficient numbers of voters cared that the standard bearers of their pet policy positions were dishonest, ruthless, cruel, cynical, incompetent and manipulative human beings with little genuine regard for fairness, honesty, responsibility, integrity, respect or citizenship, this election would be literally impossible, except in some hideous alternate universe. Continue reading

No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes

"A feminist lawyer like Estrich taking on the same clients men do? That's outr...wait, what side am I on again?"

“A feminist lawyer like Estrich taking on the same clients men do? That’s outr…wait, what side am I on again?”

Fired Fox News creator Roger Aisle hired renowned feminist lawyer and teacher Susan Estrich to defend him against the sexual harassment law suit filed by former Fox Blonde Gretchen Carlson. Responding to shock and disappointment among some feminists and others that Estrich would “abandon her principles” to defend such a client, Slate’s feminism reporter Nora Caplan-Bricker authored a post titled “The One Good Reason for a Trailblazing Feminist Lawyer to Defend Roger Ailes.”

This is in the category of a supposedly enlightening post that actually makes readers less informed. There only needs to be one Reason for a Trailblazing Feminist Lawyer to Defend Roger Ailes, and it is a great reason. Susan Estrich is  a lawyer; lawyers defend people who are sued; lawyers do not have to agree with, support or approve of  a client’s alleged actions requiring such a defense; and there’s is no reason in legal ethics or any other ethical system that argues that a U.S. citizen shouldn’t have access to the best representation possible.

For her part, Estrich has said that she is taking the case because “The individual gets convicted long before he or she has had an opportunity to defend himself. And that’s not fair, whether it is happening to a woman or a man.” That’s the civil law equivalent of the late Johnnie Cochran defending his accepting O.J. as a client by saying, “In this country, everyone has the right to be treated as innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers.”

Partial translation of both statements: “I’m a lawyer, and I don’t judge my clients. That’s not my job. My job is to help them use the law and legal system for their own purposes and protection, like any other citizen.”

I’ve written about this aspect of lawyers’ vital function in society, one that non-lawyers just cannot seem to grasp, so many times. Here’s a recent post; but maybe this one from 2015 is more on point. That one was about progressive legal icon and Harvard law prof Larry Tribe representing Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate some EPA regulations adverse to their horrible, evil, earth-destroying–but legal!–business. Tribe was called a traitor to the Cause of turning the U.S. into a wind and solar run nation, and I explained that the attacks on him, like all such attacks, were based on a stubborn lack of comprehension by non-lawyers, writing..

That is what lawyers do, and what they exist to do: represent citizens and companies as they seek to avail themselves of their guaranteed right to use the law to protect their interests. The public and media just don’t get it, and appear to be immune from educating on the subject: what your lawyer personally believes about your cause doesn’t matter. His or her job isn’t to judge you or your purpose. It is to give you the chance to use your rights to due process and the courts to have the law work for you rather than against you, and to have your position, if legal, serious and offered sincerely, represented by the best legal talent available.  Whether or not Tribe personally believes or supports the position being taken by his client is irrelevant to his role, unless he is so unprofessional (as in emotional and unable to overcome his own biases) that he can’t represent a client whose objectives he opposes. Then he would be obligated to refuse the representation. Then he would also be a poor lawyer, and Lawrence Tribe is anything but.

Replace “Larry Tribe” in that paragraph with “Susan Estrich”, and save me some time.

Thanks! Continue reading