Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘On The Death Of Justice Ginsburg'”

This is a working day for me, as I have to revise perfectly appropriate legal ethics course materials because a low level bureaucrat at a bar association CLE department literally doesn’t understand what she is charged with approving, Nevertheless, I will be writing here about the developing Dead Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ethics Train Wreck, or whatever I end up calling it because passengers are boarding at a rapid rate.

Zoebrain’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Comment Of The Day: On The Death Of Justice Ginsburg”is an ideal way to get that discussion started, and Behold!— Here it is:

McConnell is as right to expedite a hasty appointment of any reasonably acceptable Trump nominee in September 2020 as he was as wrong to deny a hearing to any Obama nominee whatsoever in February 2016.

To do so would reveal blatant foetid dishonesty and utter hypocrisy, but I see no good argument against it, other than the limited time available for a thorough vetting, 45 days vs 270. Doing so less than 70 minutes after RBG’s death was tacky, but fitting for this regime, and arguably such haste is needed.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore? Judicially qualified, would certainly shore up the softening Evangelical support, and, most crucially, would cause Democrats to have conniptions. But not on the current shortlist.

Ivanka Trump? Excellent test of personal loyalty, would embolden personal followers of Trump, would cause Democrats to lose their minds, but would do nothing to encourage Evangelicals, and again, not on the short list. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: On The Death Of Justice Ginsburg

Another first: This Comment Of The Day, by Michael West, isn’t related to any post or previous comment. It was triggered by the death today of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020), which has immediate political implications with ethical strings attached.

Some past Ethics Alarms posts relevant to the moment are:

and here is Michael’s timely Comment of the Day:

2) Leaders of every party have soiled themselves jumping straight into political maneuvers and demands within hours of Ginsburg’s body even beginning to cool.

3) They have a really really stupid nuclear armageddon countdown timer. If I were an enterprising political commentator, I’d establish a “civil war countdown timer”. No, not like the last civil war (which wasn’t a civil war)…but a real civil war, which would make the last one look like a boy’s nerf-war sleepover. And if McConnell does what he implies he’s going to do in his statement that came out like an hour after the news broke…I’d set that countdown timer to 5 minutes. Since it’s been at about 15 minutes since the Democrats refused to accept the 2016 election and 10 minutes since the riots began this year. Continue reading

Friday Evening Ethics Gallimaufry, 7/17/2020: SCOTUS, Di Blasio’s Delusion, And DiMaggio’s Luck

Speaking of gallimaufry, “A Heavy Dragoon” is one of the best Gilbert and Sullivan “list” songs, but you seldom hear it. Erudite is the listener who can identify all the historical figured named! The song is from “Patience,” the firs show I ever directed, and still one of my favorites. The singer in the clip above, Darrell Fancourt, played the part of the Mikado more times than anyone, and even dropped dead while playing the role.

1. In baseball history, it’s Moral Luck Day. On July 17, 1941, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio didn’t get a hit against the Cleveland Indians, in great part due to a pait of great plays by Cleveland third baseman Ken Keltner, finally ending his historic 56-game hitting streak, the longest in MLB history then and now. Largely on the basis of the streak, though it helped that the Yankees won the pennant, DiMaggio was awarded the American League MVP award, despite the fact that Boston’s Ted Williams hit .406 that season, nearly 50 points higher than DiMaggio. In fact, Williams outhit the Yankee during the same 56-game period.

The end of The Yankee Clipper’s amazing streak was luck, and the streak itself was luck. All hitting streaks are. Baseball is the  sport most governed by random chance, especially hitting: a well-hit ball can become an out if it happens to be hit within a fielder’s reach, and a ball barely touched by the bat can dribble down the  baseline for a cheap hit. DiMaggio was undeniably a great hitter, but many players in baseball history were better; he just was lucky—good, but lucky—for a longer stretch of games than anyone else. Yet of all his many achievements, the 56 game streak in 1941 is the first thing baseball fans cite when assessing  the greatness of Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

2. It isn’t what it is! Yesterday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that releasing prisoners onto the city’s streets to avoid their infection by the Wuhan virus  in jail had made New York City safer, saying, “We now have fewer people in our jails than any time since World War II and we are safer for it and better for it.”  De Blasio’s office announced  that more than 1,500 inmates had been released from city jails in three weeks, reducing the number of prisoners to its lowest level in 70 years.

The problem is that his assertion is ludicrous. De Blasio’s boast that the prisoner release made the city safer defied  the evidence of the results of the prisoner release the NYC Bail reform law required in January 2020. Of those who committed felonies that were no longer eligible for bail, 19.5% were re-arrested at least once after an initial non-bail eligible felony arrest, 1,798 of 9,227 individuals were re-arrested. 2020 recidivism resulted in 1,452  major crime arrests (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny of a vehicle) vs. 681 in 2019. Meanwhile,  shootings in the city were up 205% in June  compared to a year earlier. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.
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I Knew You Were All On Pins And Needles Waiting For The Resolution Of This Story, So..

It was almost exactly two years ago when I noted in a Morning Warm-Up that District Court Judge Robert Cicale of Suffolk County New York was arrested for breaking into the home of his  23-year-old former intern  on multiple occasions and stealing panties from her laundry hamper. His Honor was arrested in March 2018 as he was leaving the woman’s house with with his pockets filled with her awaiting-to-be-laundered delicates.  The 49-year-old married father of three was charged with burglary in the second degree.

Calling the  case “highly disturbing,” the prosecutor said at the time, “This is an individual who swore to uphold the law and violated it in a very serious way.The message here, both from the Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, is that no one is above the law.”

You mean judges can’t break into the homes of former female interns to steal their panties and do god knows what with them? Who knew? Damn those obscure ethics rules… Continue reading

From The Pandemic Ethics Lessons Files: Unicorns And Elves Do Not Constitute An Emergency

Courts , like hospitals, are having a difficult time handling all of the matters under their jurisdiction  during the health crisis. Staffs are home-bound; judges, who are generally in a high risk demographic, are available only for true emergencies. A lawyer who claims that his or her client’s concerns qualify is asking a lot, and a spurious claim is going to regarded as irresponsible.

Art Ask Agency creates life-like images of fantasy creatures like elves and unicorns. Its lawyers asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for an emergency hearing in their trademark infringement case, though the  Chicago-based federal court’s executive committee had issued an order just two days before holding “all civil litigation in abeyance.”  A court employee had also tested positive for the Wuhan virus that week, leading to the closing of its clerk’s office to the public. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/2020: Wuhan Virus-Free Zone. Well, Almost…

Good morning.

Stir crazy yet?

I have discovered, in my ongoing efforts to get traffic here back to 2016 levels, before Facebook banned the blog and The Great Exodus Of The Trump Deranged, that daily visits are 20% higher if I get a post up before 8 am. This has often caused me to get out of bed at 4 am or earlier to hit the keyboard. Today I couldn’t do it: I was so anxious last night about all the looming cancellations of my ethics programs that I barely got any sleep. Sure enough, I’m down about 400 visits compared to yesterday.

There are remarkably few comments on the Paige Spiranac saga. Well, I thought it was interesting. I also must confess that the post was in part for beloved long-time commenter Lucky, who I hope is still following the blog. Paige is his type.

I have concluded that a large number of my Facebook Friends block my posts from their feeds, because they’d rather read the daily wave of anti-Trump columns from the likes of Paul Krugman, Jennifer Rubin, and Michelle Goldberg without any unsettling clarifications from me. I have never unfriended anyone who didn’t personally insult me, but I’d unfriend someone for that. It reminds me of the “Black Mirror” episode where you can block someone in real life, and then they can’t see you, communicate with you, and vice versa.

I’m procrastinating finishing Part III of the Wuhan Virus ethics series. It covers politics and the news media, and the content makes me so angry I can’t see straight. Increasingly I’ve been wanting to write like Kurt Schlichter, the novelist/conservative gadfly, who writes things like,

“But the battle is really for the shriveled heart of the Democrat Party, and no one better represents the yin and the yang of that dying collection of power-hungry elitists and grasping greedos than the doddering socialist Sanders and that Biden guy who should by all rights be chasing that damn know-it-all squirrel around the park.”

I can write like that, I have written like that in the past, and I enjoy writing like that, but its not ethical. Schlichter recently wrote that a snarling Hillary Clinton would pop out of Joe Biden’s chest at the Democratic National Convention like in “Alien.”   What a great image…

1. Do you feel like you are being conditioned and brain washed against your will? In addition to Hollywood’s efforts to change the race or gender of every white male hero of yore, TV commercials are now giving sex changes and race overhauls to iconic characters in ads. “Mikey” in a new Life cereal commercial is a little girl. “Jake from State Farm” is now a black guy. I really don’t care who plays “Mikey” or “Jake from State Farm.” I do object to intrusive woke propaganda.

I’m waiting for Tony the Tiger to show up as a black panther and for a new Jolly Green Giantess…

…who goes “Hee Hee Hee!” Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Age and the Judge,” And A Current Day Example.

The discussions regarding Joe Biden’s age-related decline reminded me of a post that had been languishing on the runway since mid February. It was prompted by a tip from Neil Doer (I think it was Neil) who pointed me to this article about  a well-respected federal judge in Brooklyn, Jack B. Weinstein who was retiring after more than a half-century on the bench. He’s 98 years old, and it seems like he’s been an outstanding judge. My position was and is, however, that it is unethical for a judge, and indeed any professional, to continue in a position of responsibility at such an advanced age.

Obviously, I would apply that principle to politicians and leaders as well. This is another area where professional sports, especially baseball, provides useful case studies that can be instructive. Players who were great at 25 are also better when they are 40 than the more average players, whose natural decline as the result of aging will usually cause them not be able to perform  at an acceptable standard by late middle age. The great player often will still be good, but almost no player (almost) will be as excellent in his late 30s and early 40s as he was in his prime. As the financial benefits and other perks of playing major league baseball have increased over time, fewer aging greats are willing to go gentle into the good night of retirement. Their last years are often sub-par, certainly for them, or worse, but they will not voluntarily retire. Check the records of Miguel Cabrera, Pete Rose, Willy Mays, and Mickey Mantle, to name just a few.

Famously brilliant and contrary judge Richard Posner took the unpopular position among his colleagues that federal judges ought to have a mandatory retirement age. He recommended 80, but in his own case, when everyone expected him to stay until the bitter end, he retired at 78, because, he said, it was time. I’m not convinced that 80 isn’t still too old, but at least it’s a limit.

I remember well my one meeting with Antonin Scalia at a bar function not long after he had joined the Supreme Court.  He was relaxed and jovial, and when I asked him how long he thought he’d stay on the Court, he laughed and said that he couldn’t imagine staying until they “carried him out,” like so many other justices. He said it was important to leave the bench “while you still have most of your marbles.,” and to him, this meant before 80. He said he would stay about ten years.

Antonin Scalia died while still on the Court, in his 20th year of service, just short of his 80th birthday.

Here, from 2009, is “Age and the Judge.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/2020: Meltdown In Iowa Edition [CORRECTED]

Good Morning!

As I write this, there are still no final results from the Iowa Caucuses. The cause seems to be some faulty software and generally poor planning by the Iowa Democrats, resulting in chaos. There is a lot of schadenfreude going on at the conservative websites, and it is unseemly. Much as the Democrats deserve to fall on their faces, this is botched democracy in action, and nobody should be gloating about it.  It’s unfair to all of the campaign workers and supporters of the various candidates—even though the supporters of some candidates should hide their heads under a bag—and chaos in the process serves nobody’s interests. What are the odds President Trump sends out a mocking tweet about it this morning?

Here’s Nate Silver explaining what a catastrophe this is for Democrats.

The bon mot turning up in comment sections and social media over and over again last night was “The Democrats can’t handle a caucus, and they want to run the whole country?”

Until the real vote totals are in  it’s all speculation, but it looks like Joe Biden crashed and burned, with his vote totals missing the 15% threshold required to win any delegates.

1. Pete being Pete. Remember what the Ethics Alarms verdict was on Pete Buttigieg a while back? It stands. Mayor Buttigieg declared himself the winner before any useful vote totals were in. Mediaite: “All this dumpster fire of an Iowa caucus was missing was a candidate who declared victory without a single vote being reported. But shortly after midnight eastern on Tuesday morning, Mayor Pete put the cherry on top of this hideous sundae with a confounding speech in which he seemed to proclaim himself the winner.” He has been sharply criticized by just about everybody, and deserves to be. It’s a jerk move.

Meanwhile, the Sanders camp, remembering the underhanded treatment he received from the DNC in 2016, is suggesting that this may all be a plot by the Democratic Dark lords to rob him of a big victory and the proverbial “Iowa Bounce.” I don’t blame them.

2. Stop making me defend Joe Biden! Biden is getting “Ew!’s and “Ick!”s as a result of this photo..

..taken when he gave his 19-year-old granddaughter s peck on the lips during an Iowa rally. Granted, this wouldn’t be an issue if Joe didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for  inappropriate public behavior with women and girls, but this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of how a photograph, contrary to the old saying, can and do lie. The kiss lasted a nanosecond, but the photo makes it look like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading