Ethics Quote Of The Day…Or Is It Just Icky?: Alan Dershowitz

“I have had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein. I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he’s only had sex with one woman … He has an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time.”

—-Alan Dershowitz on Fox News,  attacking super-lawyer David Boies, who is representing Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a woman who claims Dershowitz had sex with her while she was one of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slaves. 

  • Too much information, Professor.
  • Has Dershowitz never heard of the Streisand Effect? His complaining about the accusation is publicizing it.
  • Decorum? Modesty? Restraint? Dignity? Privacy? Dershowitz is 80: he’s supposed to be in the generation hat still appreciates these things.
  • He had sex with one woman for almost two decades? It was nice of him to give her a break while he chatted with Laura Ingaham…
  • Ick.

Animal Treatment Ethics, Stowaway Raccoon Division: Should A Lawyer Face Professional Sanctions For This?

Controversial Cruelty to Animals Day at Ethics Alarms continues (I don’t plan these things) with this legal ethics story out of Florida. The video above is at the center of it.

Florida disciplinary authorities have opened an investigation into the professional fitness of a lawyer who forced a stowaway  racoon off of his boat a long way from shore,  and thought it was all amusing enough to post a video of the incident on Facebook. The bar’s assumption is that the animal drowned.  The lawyer is now subject to prosecution for a violation of Florida’s wildlife laws.

In Florida, as in every other U.S. jurisdiction, one of the kinds of unethical conduct that can result in bar discipline is committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects,”  as stated by  Rule 8.4 (b) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct . Should the nautical lawyer’s conduct  qualify?

You may recall a far more egregious case of animal cruelty by a lawyer discussed here, where I questioned if a psychopath lawyer’s fatal attack on his girlfriend’s dog Snoopy really tells us anything about his trustworthiness as a lawyer. I wrote then,

Emotionally, I have no problem with seeing an animal abuser kicked out of my profession, but I don’t understand what values are being applied. Is it the commission of a crime? Most lawyer crimes don’t result in disbarment, if they don’t involve lying, cheating or stealing. …There is no basis on which to conclude that [Snoppy’s killer]  isn’t competent, zealous and trustworthy—just keep him away from pets.

Now, you may well ask, “Isn’t this at least “moral turpitude?” That’s the character flaw that will keep applicants for bar membership from getting a license due to character deficiency. There are two points related to that. First, moral turpitude might keep you out of the law at the outset, but it is not one of the official no-nos that will get you kicked out of it one you are a practicing lawyer.  The legal  definition of moral turpitude is an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. Brutalizing an animal would certainly qualify. The ABA, however, greatly narrowed the definition as it was applicable to legal discipline:

The 1983 Model Code (periodically amended by the ABA House of Delegates over the last 32 years) rejected the prohibition against “illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.” The ABA’s reason, which it included in a Comment to its Rule 8.4, was quite simple: “Moral turpitude,” the ABA advised, is a “concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice.” The American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers § 5 (Third) (ALI 2000), agreed. It also concluded that “moral turpitude” is vague and may lead to discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate applications.”

This looks like an Ick Factor case to me. The abuse of poor Snoopy is so viscerally repulsive that the bar and the courts can’t keep their ethical priorities in order. It is also, as particularly ugly discipline cases often are, a matter of public relations and self-preservation for the legal profession. The bar association knows that not banning a lawyer like Pastor—one hopes there aren’t many–signals to the public that the bar welcomes brilliant advocates who may be monsters in their spare time. That is a dark and dangerous road the profession would rather avoid.

The lawyer in the Florida video also has some defenses the poodle-stomper did not.  Raccoons are wild animals, and cute as the are, they also bite. I wouldn’t want to be trapped on a boat in middle of the ocean with one, though I wouldn’t throw the critter overboard either, unless it was me or him. (My father had a home movie of me jumping out of a canoe and swimming to a lake’s shore when I saw a large spider in the vessel. Of course, I was only 15. All right, I was 26….) The raccoon may have also been a better swimmer than everyone assumes: unlike in the case of poor Snoopy, the lawyer wasn’t trying to kill the animal, just get it off the boat.

I do not, however, second the opinion of Law professor Dane Ciolino, writing on his Louisiana Legal Ethics blog, who says in discussing the case, “A Maryland lawyer was suspended for microwaving a cat. But a racoon? I think not.”

Wait—is the professor really saying that microwaving a live raccoon would not justify bar sanctions, but a cooking a cat does? That’s animal bigotry, but it is consistent with what I detected in the Snoopy case. If that lawyer had stomped to death a raccoon that wandered into the apartment, I doubt that he would have been disciplined.

Yet animal cruelty is animal cruelty. If gratuitously killing a dog or a cat shows that a lawyer is unfit to practice, so does unnecessarily killing a raccoon.


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Why I’ve Changed My Position On Transgender Athletes In Women’s Sports, Or “Ethics Evolve With Wisdom And Experience”

Yesterday I headlined the story about transgender powerlifter Mary Gregory, who just shattered multiple lifting records, Unfair, Obviously Unfair, Scandalously Unfair. Why Are Athletic Organizations Allowing This? Why Are Women Tolerating It?

Possessed of a keener memory than I, reader Luke G. “pounced,” as the news media always says when Republicans object to Democratic words and conduct that absolutely should be objected to. He wrote in part,

What made you change your mind on this issue? Several years ago you were bad-dogging me in the comments for the views you hold now- you claimed back then that there was no reason [male-to-female transgender athlete] Fallon Fox shouldn’t get to fight in Women’s UFC, because she lives as a female and had transition surgery. According to 2013 Jack, “I don’t believe that males have an unfair advantage at all. Many advantages in physical ability can be made up with skill, and that true of most professional sports.”….I’m just wondering what it was that finally pushed you to flip on this one.

I wrote THAT? Yes, I did. Boy, is it ever inconvenient having over 10,000 searchable posts around to prove your inconsistencies. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/19: Fake News, Twin Ethics, Bonnie And Clyde, And A Deadly Date

Good morning!

I would give you all a big hug, a squeeze, and maybe a sniff, but that’s not me...

1. This is fake news, you know. Today’s headline on the Times front page: “Barr Understated Mueller Findings, Some on Team Say.” Naturally, “some” are never identified. All this headline means is that some involved with the Mueller investigation wouldn’t have summarized the report as the AG did,  and some had a different opinion, and, presumably, some disagreed with them. Who didn’t assume this? This isn’t news. This is just pot-stirring and innuendo in service of a political agenda. Now if the Times’ sources went on the record and explained what findings they are referring to and why, that would be news. This isn’t.

2. Maybe just Ick, not ethics, but still, ICK! Kendall Jenner, who is famous exclusively because her half-sister sister bared all in a sex video that launched the Kardashian reality show empire, made $26.5 million for just 53 sponsored Instagram posts, according to Captiv8, a marketing firm that connects brands to “social media influencers.” Let’s see: is there anything wrong with Jenner letting companies pay her to send out social media hype? As long as she isn’t lying in her posts, I guess not...but if she becomes part of a fraud without doing her due diligence,  its not just unethical, it’s illegal. Is there anything unethical about paying a narcissistic waste of space who would lose a game of Scrabble to a sea sponge millions to promote a company’s product or event? No, if it works. Is there anything unethical about trusting a barely-educated celebrity because of her looks? Unethical, no…stupid, but not unethical.

3. On the suspension of ethics during wartime. Freddie Oversteegen, who died September in her native Netherlands, was just 14 when she joined the Dutch resistanceTogether with her older sister Truus and their friend Hannie Schaft, she murdered as many Nazis as she could, using a firearm hidden in the basket of her bike. The women had a  method: first approach a Naz in bars, seduce them, ask if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and then, shoot the bastards, or as Freddie  put it, “liquidate” them.

 “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people,” she told one interviewer. When she was asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”

Freddie also blew up bridges and smuggled Jews out of concentration camps, so she was more than a black widow assassin. Is she justly regarded as a hero?

4. “The Highwaymen” My wife and I watched this new Netflix release starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the real life aging Texas Rangers who were handed the assignment of “stopping” Bonnie and Clyde’s deadly rampage through Texas in 1934. We liked it a lot, but then it’s an ethics movie, raising and debating the question—see #3 above—of how far one can ethically go to fight evil. Bonnie  and Clyde were evil despite their folk hero status at the time, and despite the sick glamorizing they received in the 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which made them the romantic rebels fighting a corrupt establishment—you know, like the arrogant creeps who shut down my college a year later.

The Highwaymen barely shows the two psychotic love-birds until they are being riddled with bullets, focusing on the real heroes of the saga, the law enforcement officials who hunted them down.

The two ex-Rangers break quite a few laws in the pursuit of the greater good, and it is odd that there seems to be a resurgence in sympathy in the entertainment media for brutal police methods. In Dick Wolf’s “Chicago PD,” for example, Sergeant Hank Voigt (Jason Beghe) regularly threatens, extorts and beats people up to solve crimes–and he’s the moral center of the show. Is law enforcement more like war than we like to admit, where the ethical rules can be, are, and maybe need to be suspended?

Best line in “The Highwaymen”: Kathy Bates, as Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson—I’ll tell her weird ethics story tomorrow—tells reporters that she is making sure that Bonny and Clyde are hunted down, and one of them references their image as Robin Hood figures. “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?” she asks.

5. Now THIS is weird…Twin ethics! In Brazil, when identical male twins  refused to say which one of them had fathered the child (DNA test proved inconclusive because they their were identical twins)  assuming they would then be able to escape having to pay, a judge ordered that they both had to pay child support. Each twin was ordered to pay 230 reais; ($60; £45) a month, or 30% of the minimum salary in Brazil. Judge Filipe Luís Perucaalso ruled that the names of both men would be on the girl’s birth certificate.

The twins had used their resemblance to impersonate each other and date as many women as possible, and then defend themselves from allegations they were cheating on girlfriends. Ah, memories! I see a reboot coming!

But they’re irresponsible illegitimate fathers!

Identical illegitimate fathers, and you’ll find

The look alike, deny alike, they go in court and lie alike!

You could lose your mind

When irresponsible illegitimate fathers

Are two of a kind!

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History

Good morning…

1. They are showing “Perry Mason” reruns again on cable TV. That was the show that made my generation want to be lawyers, under the delusion that a defense attorney could regularly prove a criminal defendant innocent. (Pssst! They are almost all guilty.) The show holds up, but boy, Perry was sleazy. In an episode I watched while I was sick, he had his investigator tell the hapless prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (Ham Burger to his friends) that he had found an incriminating piece of evidence that proved someone other than Perry’s client had committed murder. Ham relied on the information and got the killer to confess once he was faced with the production of the “smoking gun.” But Perry’s investigator hadn’t really found anything.

Having one’s agent lie to the state prosecutor is a serious ethics breach. Perry also caused the DA to tell a falsehood to get the confession, though Burger wasn’t lying, since he believed Perry’s contrivance. Prosecutors are no more allowed to lie than other lawyers, but when they do lie “in the public interest,” they seldom get more than a slap on the wrist from courts and bar ethics committees, if that. Burger didn’t seem very upset that Perry conned him, because the real killer was caught. The ends justifies the means, or did in “Perry Mason.”

2. Ick or ethics? A Chinese scientist claims that he had successfully employed embryonic gene editing to help protect twin baby girls from infection with HIV. We are told that bioethicists in China and elsewhere are reacting with “horror.” Writes the Times,

“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q….If human embryos can be routinely edited, many scientists, ethicists and policymakers fear a slippery slope to a future in which babies are genetically engineered for traits — like athletic or intellectual prowess — that have nothing to do with preventing devastating medical conditions.”

As with cloning, my view on this controversy is that a new technology does not become unethical because of how it might be used. That unethical use will be unethical, and that is what needs to be addressed when and if the problem arises. (Airplanes could be used to drop atom bombs!) The fear of “designer babies” also seems to be an example of “ick”—it’s strange and creepy!—being mistaken for unethical. Making stronger, smarter, more talented and healthier human beings is not in itself unethical, even if it is the stuff of science fiction horror novels and Josef Mengele’s dreams. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/18: “Ugh!” “Bah!” “Arf!””Ew!”And “Ahh!”

Why are these guys happy? Read on…

Goooood morning!

1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media? Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order  to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.

To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.

2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”

Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

Stop making me defend President Trump. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part II): Halloween Leftovers, Hot Yoga, And Polls

Today’s extended Warm-Up continues…

5. Halloween ethics left-overs:

  • Nah, there’s no Trump Derangement…In Hastings, Michigan, young Benny Drake wore a Donald Trump mask and costume around the neighborhood to solicit candy. At one house, the woman who answered the door threw candy at him and “asked me if she could slap me,” Drake said.

Benny should build a wall around her house.

  • Confession: I once wore a KKK-themed costume to a party. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Ku Klux Klan costume won a Halloween contest and a prize at the Lil’ Dude Tavern. After the photo of the costume “went viral,” the bar was attacked on social media and condemned by the local NAACP. A few points:

a) Many of the news media reports discussed the costume but wouldn’t share the photo with readers or TV viewers, presumably out of fear of upsetting some of them. This is incompetent and cowardly journalism, in the same category as writing about the Danish anti-Muhammad cartoons without showing them, or writing that an “epithet” set off a controversy without stating what the epithet was.

b) I assume the ethics issues here are the same as in the Hitler costume controversy, correct?

c) When I wore a KKK-themed costume decades ago, it was after a prominent white supremacist had been killed in a plane crash. KKK costumes always looked a lot like ghosts to me,  so I made a hybrid ghost-KKK costume and carried a travel case with the victim’s name on it and the airline’s sticker.  And I won a prize, too: for Costume in the Worst Taste.

  • I don’t understand this one at ALL.  In Vermont, a trick-or-treater received a bag of poop deposited in his candy bag. According to police, who investigated, it was just a mistake. How could something like that be a mistake? If the bag contained rat poison or an “explosive device,” would “Oops! Silly me!” still be an effective explanation? What if the kid ate the poop, and got violently ill? Same result?

Continue reading