Dead Ethics Alarms And Dead Brains In Cleveland

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

In other words, be just like Cleveland, Ohio.

When I read that Cleveland was trying to bill the family $500 for the fatally wounded  Tamir Rice to be carried by an ambulance after an incompetent police officer shot the 12-year-old boy as he played with a toy gun in a city park, I began a mental countdown. How long would it be before a public outcry forced the Cleveland municipal government to cover the bill and apologize? It took about a day.

It doesn’t matter how one regards Rice’s death: a racist murder by a cop, excused by the justice system ( black activists, anti-polce race-hucksters  and too many journalists and pundits), blatant incompetence on the part of many adults and institutions, leading to the negligent, tragic death of an innocent child (Ethics Alarms), or something in between. The incident was a massive humiliation for Cleveland, its leadership and the police, justifying all of the anger and raw emotion in its aftermath. Tamir and his family were undeniably victims, and the city was the entity that harmed them. If there is a single individual on the city payroll who is incapable of immediately recognizing the grotesque insult of billing the family for removing the body of the dead child killed by city police, then the city itself is untrustworthy and dysfunctional. As it happens, many city employees must have been aware of the disgusting bill, and every one of them should have been smart enough to know that this was one expense the city had to eat or else. Now we know how and why Tamir died. Incompetent people are running the city, and incompetent people are dangerous.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized at a news conference yesterday, and said that the city would pay whatever wasn’t covered by Medicaid. “It was mistake in terms of us not flagging it, but it was not a mistake in terms of the legal process,” Jackson said. This logic echoes the rationalizations for the conduct of “The Worst Aunt Ever,” who sued her 12-year-old nephew to get insurance covered damages. Continue reading

Update On “The Worst Aunt Ever” Debate

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer...

Auntie Maim and Nephew Maimer…

Remember the Ethics Alarms post about the favorite aunt who sued her 12-year old nephew for damages based on her injury when he jumped into her arms at his birthday party when he was 8? Remember the indignant plaintiffs lawyer who couldn’t get his mind around the fact that normal people don’t (ande shouldn’t) always see right and wrong like lawyers do, or that “it’s done all the time” (that is, The Golden Rationalization, #1 on the Rationalizations list, “Everybody does it”) and “there are worse lawsuits” ( or the worst of all rationalizations, #22, “Comparative Virtue” or “Its not the worst thing”) are not sufficient ethical defenses of a woman who voluntarily traumatizes a child who trusts her and who just lost his mother?

The Weekly Standard looks at the episode from some different angles, and writer Charlotte Allen does an excellent job providing a balanced analysis of the case (which I am now using in my ethics seminars to explain to lawyers how legal ethics alone is often not enough to make lawyers ethical). I am awash with regret that I didn’t think of the gag  “Auntie Maim” in the original post, which admittedly went a bit overboard in its condemnation as it was. Mostly, however, I am gratified that I was quoted in the piece after a well-handled interview with Charlotte, and indeed that she used my perspective to sum up the significance of the episode.

You can read it all here.

My Reply To Eric Turkewitz’s Criticism Regarding “The Worst Aunt Ever”

This guy would have given The Bad Aunt the right advice...

This guy would have given The Bad Aunt the right advice…

Eric Turkewitz is a New York trial attorney, by all accounts a terrific lawyer, by the evidence of his writing an ethical and astute one, in our brief encounters a very nice guy, and the proprietor of “The New York Personal Injury Law Blog.” In a recent post, he defends the decision of Jennifer Connell to sue her young nephew for a four-year old injury she received when he hugged her too enthusiastically at her birthday party. He notes, correctly, that the decision to sue was based on the client accepting a “bad call” by her lawyer. He also includes a lot of information not mentioned in the early posts on the matter, including mine. Still, he defends Connell. He also specifically criticizes my post. Eric writes,

And this is from Jack Marshall, who says he actually teaches ethics and has a blog called Ethics Alarms (coded “no follow“):

“What’s going on is that Aunt Jennifer is pure hellspawn, a mysteriously animated pile of human excrement that embodies the worst of humanity.”

This is what happens when people elect to post stuff on the web based on an initial news report that was, shall we say, very selective on what it chose to report. This site is getting quite a bit of traffic, most likely from many who never knew it existed. So let me answer a question some of you may have: Yes, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of lawsuits, and they weren’t nearly as benign as this run-of-the-mill kind: On Suing and Being Sued.

Yes, I “actually teach ethics,” and I could, in fact, teach Eric some things that he would find useful and enlightening. I’m not going to get in a pissing match with him, in part because, as I learned from another tiff four years ago (in which I was wrong, and duly apologized), he has some very, very nasty pals, and I don’t want to throw blood in the water. This is, however, an excellent example of how lawyers often end up seeing the world, and in fact I may use his post, unattributed, in seminars to show where legal ethics and ethics diverge. It is wise for lawyers to be atuned to both.

Here was the response I made to Eric on his blog: Continue reading

The Worst Aunt Ever

(L) Auntie Jenn in her "Loving Aunt" disguise, and (R), my best guess at what she looks like without it...

(L) Auntie Jenn in her “Loving Aunt” disguise, and (R), my best guess at what she looks like without it…

[ WARNING: This story may make your head explode. I’m not sure why mine didn’t; it may because there’s nothing left to blow.]

Jennifer Connell, a 54-year-old human resources manager in Manhattan, is suing her 12-year old nephew, Sean Tarala, in Connecticut for $127,000 in damages for an accident that occurred at his 8th birthday party.

On March 18, 2011, Connell arrived at the Tarala home  to attend Sean’s birthday party. She was greeted with the sight of the excited kid riding his major gift, a red bicycle, around the the yard.  When he spotted Aunt Jennifer, he jumped off his new bike and ran toward her, shouting, “Auntie Jen! Auntie Jen!”

Connell testified that “all of a sudden he was there in the air, I had to catch him and we tumbled onto the ground. I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,’ and there he was flying at me.” Connell said she her wrist was hurt, but she didn’t mention it because “It was his birthday party and I didn’t want to upset him.” Now, however, though he has always been “very loving, sensitive,” toward her, Connell believes he should be held accountable for her injury. Continue reading