Tag Archives: judges

The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward, 24,  punched and stabbed her boyfriend in a drunken rage, then hurled a jam jar, a glass and a laptop at him. This, in the U.S., would be called a criminal assault, and maybe even attempted murder.  Ah, but British Judge Ian Pringle knows better. He agrees these acts would normally mean a prison term, but Lavinia is a star student, and wants to be a surgeon. He hinted that he would spare her prison time so that her “extraordinary” talent would not be wasted. As poor Lavinia’s barrister, James Sturman, argued, his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time.

Well, we certainly mustn’t jeopardize a violent felon’s dreams.

This kind of reasoning is infused with The King’s Pass, also known as The Star Syndrome, the rationalization making the perverse unethical argument that the more talented, prominent, useful and important to society a miscreant is, the less he or she should be accountable for misconduct that nets lesser lights serious and devastating consequences:

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Judge Pringle is taking the King’s Pass/Star Syndrome to a new low: he’s arguing that Lavinia should receive special treatment based on how valuable to society she might be, given enough immunity from the consequences of her own conduct.  Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement

Finding His Country In The Jaws Of A Values Crisis, It’s Richard Dreyfuss To The Rescue! or, “This Was No Boating Accident!” [UPDATED]

Several episodes in the news this week had me pondering a post about whether the hysteria of “the resistance” has caused a critical mass of Democrats and progressives to lose their grip on basic ethical values, like decency, tolerance, respect, proportion, democracy and citizenship competence. These were all ethics alarms, perhaps especially for liberal Americans with integrity, warnings that their side of the ideological divide is not merely spinning off its axis, but spinning into insanity.

Ethics Alarm #1, and the worst by far, was this astounding scenario out of Newton Massachusetts.

Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan freed a previously deported Uber driver accused of three charges of rape on minimal  bail even after a prosecutor insisted that federal immigration agents were drafting a detainer and asked for higher bond to hold him. Tapes of this week’s hearing revealed the judge cutting  arguments short, and before a defense attorney could even counter the prosecution’s $100,000 bail and GPS-monitoring demand, declalred, “Twenty-five hundred dollars cash.” She then set a follow-on court date  and asked, “Is he going to make the bail today?”

On the tape, someone in the courtroom is heard calling out, “Yes.” Heffernan then asked a court employee, “Can you take bail downstairs? Sometimes they won’t, they make them go back out to the House of Correction at 4 o’clock.” The defendant, Luis Baez, promptly disappeared, which was the evident goal of the judge. She was more concerned with allowing an illegal, already once deported immigrant avoid ICE arrest than  protecting the citizens of Massachusetts.

Baez was accused of raping a drunken Boston College student who had hailed his Uber car. Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi told the judge that Baez took the young woman to a parking lot and other sites, and raped her three times.. He then dropped his victim  at Boston College, where she reported she had been raped. Baez was introduced to the judge as “somebody known to the Boston police gang unit as having previous involvement in the Mozart Street Gang, someone who had been previously prosecuted and in fact previously deported.”

She didn’t care about any of that. Judge Heffernan, a judicial appointment of Obama pal, former Governor Deval Patrick, was a former public safety secretary in his administration who had resigned in the midst of a scandal. True to her party’s obsession, she was determined to help Baez avoid immigration enforcement.

Ethics Alarm #2 illustrates how warped some even previously warped hyper-partisans have become in their hatred of the President.

Talking on  MSNBC with Chris Hayes about the dangerous situation with North Korea, Hayes, a card-carrying Trump-basher if there ever was one, made the rather obvious statement that he’s “genuinely rooting for” Trump to “handle the North Korea situation well.” Good for Chris Hayes: he’s an American, and partisan hate hasn’t completely eaten his brain. Not Moore though.

“I don’t know if I agree with that,” Moore responded. Moore went on to explain that it is more important to him that Trump fail and thus lose power than for the United States to successfully defuse the rogue nuclear nation and its threat to the world.  “It’s like rooting for a 6-year-old who suddenly swiped dad’s car and figured out how to take it down the road,” the fool stated. “I’m not rooting for the 6-year-old to get on the highway and drive that car. I want the 6-year-old off the highway.”

This accurately expresses the message being broadcast by much of the anti-Trump forces, including the Democratic Party, since the election. They are willing to facilitate almost any damage —in Moore’s case, nuclear destruction—to the nation, its institutions, its stability and the public if it will somehow undo the election, and get Donald Trump “off the highway.” Moore is obviously an extreme case, but when you find yourself in the same camp as someone who thinks like he does, the ethics alarms should be deafening.

Ethics Alarm #3 came in the context of climate change, along with open borders the most intensely and irrationally held tenet of current progressive cant. Continue reading

62 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Popular Culture, Rights, U.S. Society

The Attorney General’s “Island In The Pacific” Gaffe

I guess we’re going to have to get used to this sequence over the next 4-8 years (yes, 8: at the rate the Democrats are disgracing themselves, President Trump may stick around):

1) President Trump and/or one of his surrogates, spokespersons or appointees make a carelessly worded statement

2) Democrats, activists and the news media intentionally, wilfully and maliciously interpret it in the worst way possible under the convetions of the English language

3) They widely represent the statement to the public as expressing malign thoughts intent and principles

4) The Trump-related speaker, being rhetorically-challenged to begin with, fails to clarify the confusion and makes himself or herself look worse the more he tries.

5) Nobody, almost literally nobody, bothers to examine the statement from an objective point of view.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week, referring to the Hawaii -chambered federal judge Derrick K. Watson, who last month blocked Trump’s revised temporary halt on travel from sslected terrorist-rich Muslim countries just before it was to go into effect,

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

It was an off-hand remark on conservative talk show host Mark Levin’s radio program, but it immediately provoked ridicule and attack. Sessions didn’t know Hawaii was a state. Sessions doesn’t respect Hawaii.  President Trump doesn’t like Hawaii. Just a few minutes ago, I watched ABC’s George Stephanopoulos confront Sessions about the remark. Sessions’ humina humina reply: “Nobody has a sense of humor any more.”

I understood the meaning of Sessions’ statement to Levin the minute I heard it, because I thought the same thing at the time of the judge’s ruling: Hawaii is the weirdest place for Trump’s order to be litigated, since the state  is uniquely insulated from the illegal immigration problems facing the other 49 states, has never had anything close to a terrorism attack, and has a negligible Muslim population. The particular problems that the President’s order purports to address is an abstract one for Hawaiians, more than any other state. Sessions’ comment was rueful, intended as irony (to a friendly interviewer), and none of the vile things it was subsequently accused of being. Continue reading

48 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunce, Judicial Division: Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen”

The post about the absurd Arkansas judge who saw nothing wrong with taking part in some anti-death penalty protest theater shortly after halting some scheduled executions. Can we say “objectivity”? Sure we can!

The impetus for Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day was what could be called dicta in the original post about the dubious role models for judicial conduct currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunce, Judicial Division: Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen:

I agree that SCOTUS needs an ethics code, but, in all fairness, did Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon ever attack the SCOTUS or a decision in a speech or an address? FDR was far more politically powerful than Obama ever could hope to be, but even he knew when to back off the SCOTUS. That said, I wonder if he knew from the get-go he was going to break the 2-term tradition and just wait the court out, as justices either died or retired and he replaced them with like-minded judges.

What do you think of an age limit for Federal judges, setting either 70 or 75 as a mandatory retirement age? Although Article III judges serve for the term of their good behavior, arguably that Article didn’t conceive of Federal Judges living well past 70 regularly and living and serving into their 80s and 90s uncommon but now certainly not unheard of. If we can revisit Presidential terms of office, which we already have, if we can revisit the Electoral College, which we already have once and some are asking us to again, and if many vocally want us to revisit both the First and especially the Second Amendments, all of these due to changing circumstances (breach of the 2-term custom, the emergence of political parties, alleged hate speech, and the evolution of firearms beyond single shot muskets) then arguably we can revisit Article III as well.

Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

About Fox News’ Fake Judge

In a post on the Legal Ethics Forum, not as active as it once was but still one of the best legal ethics sites around, Legal ethicist and law professor Steve Lubet clarifies something I have always wondered about, and like a lazy slug, never investigated.

Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano, most recently in the news for claiming that the British intelligence service GCHQ  colluded with President Obama to conduct surveillance on the Trump staff during the 2016 campaign, is always called “Judge Napolitano” during his appearances.  Lubet points out that he’s not a judge any more. Napolitano once served on the New Jersey Superior Court, but resigned in 1995 and has not held judicial office for more than two decades. It is apparently at Napolotano’s insistence that he is always addressed  as “Judge”  in Fox. His website, JudgeNap.com, refers to him as “Judge Napolitano” throughout, as does his bio on the Fox News site.

Lubet notes that The American Bar Association has held that  the use of  judicial titles by former judges practicing law is misleading and unethicalin connection with law practice.  ABA Formal Opinion 95-391 says that continued “use of the title is misleading because it may be misunderstood by the public as suggesting some type of special influence” or “to create an unjustified expectation.” In fact, said the ABA, “there appears to be no reason for such use of the title other than to create such an expectation.” Of course, Napolitano isn’t practicing law when he bloviates on Fox News, so it isn’t a Rules violation, but the Judge label is still misleading

The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, Lubet found,  goes further by decreeing that it is only ethical for a former judge to use the titles  “Judge” or “The Honorable” if they are preceded by the word “retired” or “former,” and the rule does not limit this caveat to ex-judges actively practicing law. Again, Napolitano is not out of compliance, because he is not subject to the Ohio Rules. That doesn’t make what he calls himself strictly accurate, or sufficiently accurate. (I confess, I have had a bias against such things ever since I suffered through a year with an insufferable  high school history teacher who called himself (and insisted that we call him)  “Dr. Arthur” because he had a PhD in history.) Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Dunce, Judicial Division: Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen

 

That’s the judge lying down. At least he wasn’t wearing his robe…

Arkansas circuit judge Wendell Griffen granted a temporary restraining order last week halting the Arkansas Department of Corrections from executing seven condemned prisoners within eleven days as it had planned, as Griffen barred the use of one of the ingredients in the lethal drug “cocktail.” A federal judge followed up quickly with anothee order likewise barring Arkansas from proceeding to execute anyone with a lethal injection. Mission accomplished,  Judge Griffen decided to reward himself by attending an anti-death penalty rally in which he participated with elan, playing a condemned prisoner lying prone on a lawn chair as if it was a gurney.

What fun! And what an idiot! No ethics alarms went off, despite the fact that he was flagrantly displaying his bias against the death penalty immediately after interfering with the state’s law enforcement based on a fair and objective interpretation of the law.

State officials were outraged, and argued that Griffen’s conduct proved that he was not capable of impartiality in capital cases. Ya think?

Yesterday the Arkansas Supreme Court pulled Griffen from all pending death penalty and lethal injection protocol cases. It also referred him to the state’s Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to determine whether he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Good. Continue reading

51 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Signature Significance: The Democratic Party’s Irresponsible And Petulant Gorsuch Tantrum [Updated]

Signature significance, in the context of ethics, is when a single example of conduct or a single episode is sufficient to make a definitive judgment about the ethical values of an individual or an organization. It is something so striking and blatant that the usually valid statistical argument that one data point is meaningless doesn’t hold true. Ethics Alarms refers to signature significance frequently.

The Democratic Party’s behavior regarding the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch is signature significance. It won’t work. It will result in permanent harm to the Senate, harm that will initially most affect Democrats. It is hypocritical, irresponsible, and embarrassing, at least if the party is considering citizens who understand what is going on, admittedly a minority. It is unprofessional. It is dishonest. It is unpatriotic. The conduct is so obviously irresponsible that it is difficult to believe that Democratic leaders don’t realize it. Because it is all these things, the strategy is also very close to insane.

I just watched Senator Grassley’s address to the Judiciary Committee, ticking off l the reasons why the inflammatory Democratic rhetoric regarding Judge Gorsuch ranged from untrue to self-contradictory to ludicrous. He wasn’t exaggerating; it wasn’t a partisan speech.  Grassley reminded the committee that Gorsuch had been unanimously confirmed when he was nominated to the 10th Circuit. The Senator correctly explained why the recent mantra that Gorsuch wasn’t “mainstream” was counter-factual, since he has voted with the majority on that court over 90% of the time.

Grassley dismissed as offensive and judicially ignorant (my words, not his; Chuck was appropriately mild in his word choices) the argument that Gorsuch lacked compassion and wouldn’t rule “for the little guy.” Competent and ethical judges—unlike, say, Justice Sotomayor—don’t change their decisions according to which litigant is “big,” “little,” rich, poor, black or white. Their job, duty and role is to clarify what the law is. It is only part of the current progressive delusions, most recently shown in the rulings against the Trump travel halt from terrorist-teeming Muslim nations, that judges should base their analysis on their personal and political biases, when those biases are the “right” ones.

Senator Grassley then moved to the complaint that Gorsuch “refused to answer questions.” “What this means is that the judge wouldn’t say in advance how he would rule on cases that hadn’t come before him yet,” the Senator said. Of course he is exactly right. No judicial nominee has been willing to answer such question since the Democrats politicized the confirmation process forever by voting down Reagan appointee Robert Bork, despite the judge being as qualified and brilliant a jurist as anyone nominated to sit on the Court. No judge should have answered such questions before that, either. Cases are decided on the law and the facts. A justice who has made up his or her mind before even reading the briefs or hearing oral arguments is not judging fairly or competently.

Finally, Grassley pointed out that no Supreme Court nominee has ever faced a filibuster or the threat of one. For Gorsuch to be filibustered by Democrats, despite being assessed by almost every legal expert and commentator as unusually distinguished and qualified (including the left-leaning American Bar Association, which has found conservative judges less than qualified in the past because they were…conservative), is indefensible on the merits. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership