Tag Archives: judges

The Bad Judges And The Law Dog

The legal commentariat is much amused by a case out of Louisiana involving  the right to counsel. I don’t think it’s funny at all.

( Oh all right, it’s a little funny.)

Warren Demesme was being interviewed by detectives, not for the first time, about some alleged sexual misconduct with minors. He was read his rights, “Mirandized,” as they say, and said that he understood, and waived those rights. (He could, however, choose to invoke them at any time, per several Supreme Court rulings.)

At some point the interview got tense, and the suspect said,

“If y’all, this is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog cause this is not what’s up.”

He was not, however, given access to a lawyer, and when he appealed his subsequent conviction on the grounds that he requested legal assistance and was not accommodated, the lower court rejected his argument, saying that he had not made his desire for a lawyer clear and unambiguous. Incredibly, the Louisiana Supreme Court agreed, writing in part,

The defendant argues he invoked his right to counsel. And the basis for this comes from the second interview, where I believe the defendant ambiguously referenced a lawyer..As this Court has written, “[i]f a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal in that a reasonable police officer in light of the circumstances would have understood only that the suspect might be invoking his right to counsel, the cessation of questioning is not required.” State v. Payne (La. 2002); see also Davis v. United States (1994) (agreeing with the lower courts’ conclusion that the statement “[m]aybe I should talk to a lawyer” is not an unambiguous request for a lawyer). In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a “lawyer dog” does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview and does not violate Edwards v. Arizona (1981).

Right.

And the vote on the Supreme Court in favor of this indefensible ruling was 8 to 1. 8 to 1!

Forget it, Jack. It’s Louisianatown. Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/31/2017: A Hate Outbreak, A Bigoted Judge, A Lost Post, And More Halloween Ethics

Good Morning!

1 On Facebook, many of my progressive friends literally expressed glee at yesterday’s indictments, especially at the charge that Paul Manafort had engaged in “conspiracy against the United States.” Lots of social media users were expressing similar sentiments, the thrust being that they were excited that two individuals who worked for the Trump campaign were facing criminal charges…simply because they worked for the Trump campaign. This cackling mob hadn’t read the indictment, or if they did, they didn’t understand it. They just were engaging in free-standing hate by association.

The reaction is not sort of like, but exactly like, what I called  the “Ugliest moment of election night”: Trump’s crowd chanting “Lock her up!” as the upset electoral victory approached. Criminalizing the political process is not the way of democracy, and rooting for people’s lives to be ruined because of their partisan alliances is disgusting. Who among the people so thrilled to see Manafort and former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos being prosecuted know anything about them other than the fact that they worked for the President’s campaign? What do they think justifies cheering their indictment? Papadopoulos pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about when he tried to meet with Russians claiming to have damning Hillary Clinton e-mails—which, I hope you know (and I bet the Facebook mob doesn’t) isn’t a crime.

Last night, Stephen Colbert, the full-time attack jester of “the resistance,” said of the indictments, “I know it’s almost Halloween, but it really feels more like Christmas!” What an idiotic and hateful thing to say, as well as a statement that is misleading to his audience, who naturally would think that the action implicates the President and the White House in something. (It doesn’t.)

2. Colbert also engaged in gratuitous race-baiting, because dividing the country along racial lines and promoting racial distrust is apparently what progressives think is funny and cool. Noting that the charges against Paul Manafort were filed on Friday but that he didn’t have to turn himself in until Monday Colbert smirked,  “Wow, we white people really do get arrested differently.” The “joke” is untrue, and racist in its own implications, suggesting that only whites commit white collar crimes and are regarded as low flight risks, while blacks commit the violent crimes and robberies that lead to immediate arrests.

These are ugly, mean-spirited people, poisoned by ugly, mean-spirited thoughts.

You can quote me.

3. Judge W. Mitchell Nance, a Kentucky judge, resigned after judicial ethics charges were filed against him as a result of his refusing to preside over any same-sex couple adoption cases. Nance announced that he would not  participate in  gay adoption matters in April, when he issued an order saying he was recusing himself from such case, arguing that adoption by a gay couple would never be in the best interest of a child.

The judicial misconduct complaint filed last month argued that Nance’s order violated the judicial ethics canons requiring judges to promote confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, to be faithful to the law, and to refrain from showing bias or prejudice.

It does. Good riddance. Continue reading

67 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Facebook, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

The Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Run-Off: The Worst Choice Ever [UPDATED]

And you thought having to choose between Hillary and Donald Trump was bad!

The upcoming Republican run-off for the special election to choose a successor to Alabama previous GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, is as bad as it gets. Whoever wins is certain to be elected in super-red Alabama over Democrat Doug Jones, but one GOP candidate is corrupt and absurd, and the other is absurd, a fanatic and a habitual scofflaw. Both can be counted upon to immediately lower the ethical and intellectual level of the U.S. Senate, and normally I would assume that only electing a horseshoe crab or some other lower species could do the latter, while nothing short of sending Hillary Clinton back there could accomplish the former. That Alabama voters would allow their state’s seat in the U.S. Senate to depend on a run-off between these two examples of the worst of the U.S. politics bestiary doesn’t merely show that the state is backwards, it shows that its voters deserve one of these jerks. The rest of us, however, do not.

Let’s look at the two contestants, shall we? First current Senator Luther Strange, whose best feature is his name. Allow me to save you a click by re-posting a substantial section from February’s post about him:

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure.

Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that  he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.

Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.

With the wolves gathering at  his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.

Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?

I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable.   There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.

Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure.  “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original  impeachment motion to a vote.  “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”

For this to have been a pre-arranged  quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?

Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events  that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit  that he had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”

The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,

‘I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.’

Nah.

Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.

Strange!

Now normally I would say that anyone—Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dormammu—is a preferable U.S. Senate choice than this shameless, ambitious hack. Roy Moore, however, is a piece of work. The one-time kickboxer and full time fundamentalist Christian fanatic first warranted Ethics Alarms notice as an Incompetent Elected Official in 2014, and his recognition came that late only because I viewed his stand-off over displaying the Ten Commandments in his court room and trying to turn Alabama justice into a theocracy too ridiculous to write about (and Ethics Alarms didn’t exist then.) Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/11/17: Irma and Climate Change Hype; Democrats And Anti-Catholic Hypocrisy

Good Morning!

1 I’m in Boston to address a group of new admittees to the Massachusetts bar today.

2. Broadcast journalists were surprisingly restrained with Harvey, but the second major hurricane in less than two weeks is apparently too much for them, as it is for other climate change shills on social media and elsewhere (I’m looking at YOU, Jennifer Lawrence…which, I admit, isn’t all that unpleasant…)

Thus I am hearing (and reading) more and more claims that Hurricane Irma on top of Hurricane Harvey is the result of the nation’s failure to aggressively limit carbon emissions…as if two (or more) big storms in hurricane season is unprecedented, and didn’t, in fact, occur far more frequently when Al Gore was knee-high to a grasshopper. What does the cynical use of the 2017 storms as propaganda for the gullible and weak-minded tell us?

It tells us that the journalists don’t know beans about climate, weather and the science of global warming. It shows us that they are willing to mislead the public out of dishonesty, bias or incompetence, by spreading what amounts to junk science regarding an important policy issue. It tells us that they can’t resist using their position as reporters to boost what is for them a political agenda, for not one of them has first hand knowledge or genuine expertise regarding whether the earth is warming, how much, for how long, to what effect, and what will actually slow it down, and very, very few of them could explain a climate change model if their lives depended on it.

Finally, it tells us they are stupid. Every time it becomes obvious that the news media, elected officials and others are hyping this issue by using weather as an argument that climate change is occurring, they make skeptics more skeptical, and justly so. When advocates and activists resort to phony arguments and fake facts, it is  fair to assume that they don’t have sufficiently persuasive actual facts, and that they cannot be trusted not to cheat to get their way. Continue reading

122 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/29/2017

Good Morning!

1. There are several accurate and fair points in the New York Times overview of the Obamacare repeal and replace fiasco, as well as some details that all add up top one thing: the GOP, top to bottom, wasn’t prepared to follow up on the promises it was making during the campaign. To be responsible and honest, it should have had the substitute plan for the Affordable Care Act crafted, analyzed and ready before the 2016 campaign was even underway—you know, one that still dealt with pre-existing condition problem, capped mediacl negligence lawsuit awards. and took steps to lower health care cots while giving the public more choices rather than fewer and not adding to the national debt. Instead, they just used a false promise to stir up the base, like Harold Hill railing about the new pool table corrupting the youth in River City. It was a con job, in other words, all along. Incredibly, the Times reports—assuming that what it reports is true, and of that we can never be sure, remember—

“Vote yes, Republican leaders told the holdouts in their conference. We promise it will never become law. After seven years of railing against the evils of the Affordable Care Act, the party had winnowed its hopes of dismantling it down to a menu of options to appease recalcitrant lawmakers — with no more pretenses of lofty policy making, only a realpolitik plea to keep the legislation churning through the Capitol by voting to advance something, anything.”

That’s nauseating, and unethical governance and politics at its worst.

Other notes from the article

  • “A ruling party that never expected to win. A conservative base long primed to accept nothing less than a full repeal. An overpromising and often disengaged president with no command of the policy itself and little apparent interest in selling its merits to the public.”

It’s fine to face reality when you appear to be defeated. It is unethical to run for office without being as prepared to win as you would be if your were the frontrunner.

  • “Yet in private sessions…Republicans worried about being saddled with a politically toxic “Trumpcare,” with some acknowledging that their dual promises — repealing the law swiftly without pulling the rug out from Americans — could not be reconciled.”

This just occurred to them? Wasn’t this obviously a problem that could have been predicted since. oh, 2010?

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, assembled a working group of 13 senators to draft the legislation — all of them male — excluding Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins.”

What a moron.

2. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s mommy who hates our President with a passion, sent out a re-tweet of an edited video appearing to show President Trump snubbing a child in a wheelchair. She wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou https://twitter.com/ansel/status/889596818383814656 …”

The tweet had gone viral, with more than 58 thousand retweets. It’s also carrying a lie. The actual, unedited video shows the President kneeling and talking to the boy. Now the tweet itself and the page of the tweeter has vanished.

Rowling has shown us that she is a foreign citizen using her influence to spread fake news in an effort to undermine our government. Someone should turn her into a newt. Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

From The “Law vs Ethics” Files: PETA Chooses To Harm An Artist On Behalf Of A Monkey Who Couldn’t Care Less, And Judges Think It’s An Amusing Legal Condundrum

“I’m baaaaack!”

When we last heard from  photographer David Slater, the U.S. Copyright Office had rejected his claim that he owned the  copyright for the famous series of selfies presumably taken unintentionally by a Celebes crested macaque.  In 2011,  Slater spent several days following and photographing a troop of macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the selfies were a lucky bi-product that quickly became a web sensation. Slater had asserted ownership over the photos, and had demanded that various on-line users, such as Wikipedia, either take them down or pay him as the copyright holder. The ruling of the Copyright Office was based on the theory that Slater had not taken the photo, so he was not the creator, and animals couldn’t own copyrights, so the photos were in the public domain.

Pop Ethics Quiz: Would it have been unethical had Slater simply released the photos without revealing that the selfies had been the lucky result of an  accident, snapped by the monkey wile it was messing around with his equipment?

About the Copyright Office’s ruling: I’m dubious. Slater owned the equipment, and had the sense to preserve the photos. A decision that if a photo is taken accidentally by a non-human or an act of God, the photographer who owns the equipment gets the copyright would have been fair.  Zapruder owned the film that inadvertently caught President Kennedy having his forehead shot off, and it made him rich. Slater’s claim just goes a step further: Zapruder left the street  to buy a hotdog, put his camera on on a trash can and asked a friend to “watch it,” and a dog turned the camera on, catching the grisly scene. So Zapruder doesn’t own the film anymore? Does that make sense to you?

Well, that was the ruling anyway. Then things got really ridiculous. Slater included the monkey selfies in a book, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  brought a law suit against Slater on behalf of the monkey,which PETA claims is named Naruto, and asked that PETA be appointed to administer proceeds from the photos for the benefit of Naruto and other crested macaques in the reserve on Sulawesi. So PETA would suddenly be the de facto copyright holder. Continue reading

26 Comments

Filed under Animals, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Quizzes

Over At “The Ethicist,” An Off-The-Wall Ethics Question Gets An Even More Off-The-Wall Answer

I don’t have many opportunities to take issue with the current writer of The New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” column, because he, unlike his predecessors, really is one, and doesn’t come up with whoppers like they used. Professor Appiah had some “Bonus Advice” this week, however, from a Judge John Hodgman. The judge reminded me of those halcyon days when “The Ethicist” was good for a couple of Ethics Alarms attacks a month. Good times!

First, the question:

My roommate takes long, casual phone calls while on the toilet. I have tried explaining why this behavior is creepy and rude to the person he is talking to, as they do not know they are talking to someone who is going to the bathroom. He thinks it’s actually rude when people don’t answer phone calls simply because they’re in the bathroom.

Wait…what? WHAT?

It is impossible to be secretly rude. It has no effect on the person on the other end of the line if you are naked, making faces, or writing “I hate this idiot!” in the mirror in blood. Nor is it “creepy” to have a phone conversation on the toilet. I’m typing this while I’m on the toilet and wearing a duck on my head, and it’s nobody’s business but mine.

Nor is it rude to refuse to answer phone calls when one is in the bathroom. In fact, it is almost never rude to decline a phone call.  That bell is an  invitation to have a conversation, not a command. I don’t answer calls when I’m taking a nap, a shower, having a live, face-to-face conversation, writing an Ethics Alarms post, cooking, eating a meal, enjoying an orgy, or chopping up my victim after a murder. It’s my option, my time, and my schedule.

These two roommates are made for each other.

Now the judge’s response:

“Your roommate is quite wrong: What’s actually rude is people making phone calls in the first place. We have so many better ways to communicate now that do not involve repeating yourself constantly, saying the wrong thing under the gun and then realizing you’ve been talking for five minutes to a dropped call. Even the ringing of a good old landline is the intrusive announcement that either a) someone thinks you don’t deserve to choose how to spend your time, or b) someone you know has been killed or injured. If only to protect the meditative solitude of the bathroom act, your roommate should stop this habit, never mind the fact that it is just plain gross.”

Think about it: someone with this level of judgment is a judge.

1. We have better ways of communicating than talking to each other?

2. If someone doesn’t want to talk on the phone, they can turn the phone off.  They can have an unlisted number, or a cell phone number they only share with people they won’t think are rude when they call.  They can not have a phone at all. If you make it possible for people to call you when you don’t have to do so, people reasonably assume that you don’t mind being called. Calling too late or too early is inconsiderate, unless there is an emergency.  Robocalls and solicitor calls are intrusions. But a friend or relative “reaching out to touch someone” as the old Bell  long-distance ad sang? That’s rude? What’s the matter with this guy?

3. Let me rephrase that: What the HELL is the matter with this guy? We have to obey his rules for what we do in the bathroom? I read my baseball books in the bathroom…is that a violation of “meditative solitude’? How about having long discussions with my wife through the bathroom door—not sufficiently meditative? What’s happening on the toilet isn’t gross, but talking to someone who has no idea where you are and what you are doing is gross? I can be as gross as we want when the only witness is me, and there is absolutely nothing rude, inappropriate or unethical about it.

As long as I clean up afterward.

38 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Professions