Tag Archives: judicial ethics

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: 8/1/17

 

Good Morning, World!

1. Follow-Up on the 7/28 morning post: Sometimes a popular public figure’s words and conduct so obviously show a deficit of character that I wonder if those who admire him or her are not paying attention, or are creeps themselves. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling is officially in this category. First, I do not care for foreigners who obsessively bash our leaders, however bashable. They don’t have standing, in most cases, and their opinions are by definition uninformed if they don’t live here. Most obnoxious of all, however, in Rowling’s case, was her indefensible conduct regarding her recent infamous fake news tweet that circulated to her mob of followers a deceptively edited video showing President Trump cruelly ignoring a boy in a wheelchair, when he in fact stopped, crouched, and spoke to the child. She did this (“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou” was the snotty accompanying comment) on July 28, and the same day it was widely debunked, with the actual video being circulated on the web. No response came from Rowling, even as her tweet and libel continued to be liked and retweeted by “the resistance.”

On July 30, even CNN’s Brian Stelter, with extra time on his hands because his alleged news media ethics show avoids criticizing bias in the news media, flagged the bad tweet, and asked why Rowling hadn’t retracted it. Come on, Brian, you know why! It is for the same reason CNN continues to use unethical journalism to attack the President: they don’t believe he’s worthy of fairness or honesty.

Finally,  after various conservatives dredged up this year-old tweet from Rowling to show her hypocrisy and shame her with her own chosen words…

and after left-wing, fellow Brit Trump-basher Piers Morgan expressed frustration with her, and after PunditFact, a spin-off of PolitiFact, rated Rowling’s claim “Pants on Fire,” and after the boy’s mother herself denied that Rowling’s version occurred, the author finally retracted the tweet and took it down. She also tweeted this unethical apology:

Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proferred hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage, multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction. I very clearly projected my own sensitivities around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologise unreservedly. These tweets will remain, but I will delete the previous ones on the subject.

This is a miserable apology, containing the stinking tell of the non-apology apology, “if anyone was offended” in this case the equivalent “if that caused any distress.”  The two people she non-apologizes to had no reason to be “distressed,’ since the tweet wasn’t an attack on them. This is not an apology at all, since it does not apologize ..

…to the person fraudulently attacked, President Trump, as well as his family and supporters

…to those deceived by her retweeted lie, and

…to the people who trusted her and became accessories in the false attack

…for taking four days to take down a lie that had been thoroughly exposes as one.

On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, it is a bottom of the barrel #10:

An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.

This rot is actually worse than a #10, as Rowling dares to ladle soppy virtue-signalling onto it. She only falsely attacked the President of the United States and spread a lie around the world because she is so, so sensitive and concerned about the treatment of handicapped people! Don’t you understand? It’s because she’s so compassionate and good that this happened!

It is my experience that good people can usually manage a sincere and remorseful apology to those harmed by their words or conduct.

2. This unethical lawsuit could sustain a stand-alone post, but I refuse to devote one to it as a matter of principle. Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, Social Media, Sports, Unethical Tweet

( PSSST! The Supreme Court Just Unanimously Pointed Out That The Courts Blocking The Trump Temporary Travel Ban Were Playing Partisan Politics, Not Objectively And Ethically Doing Their Jobs)

As many predicted (including me), the Supreme Court unanimously slappped down the lower court injunctions based on claims that the Trump temporary travel restrictions on six Muslim countries were unconstitutional, writing,

But the injunctions reach much further than that: They also bar enforcement of §2(c) against foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all. The equities relied on by the lower courts do not balance the same way in that context. Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national. And the courts below did not conclude that exclusion in such circumstances would impose any legally relevant hardship on the foreign national himself. See id., at 762 (“[A]n unadmitted and nonresident alien . . . ha[s] no constitutional right of entry to this country”). So whatever burdens may result from enforcement of §2(c) against a foreign national who lacks any connection to this country,they are, at a minimum, a good deal less concrete than the hardships identified by the courts below.
At the same time, the Government’s interest in enforcing §2(c), and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States. Indeed, EO–2 itself distinguishes between foreign nationals who have some connection to this country, and foreign nationals who do not, by establishing a case-by-case waiver system primarily for the benefit of individuals in the former category. See, e.g., §§3(c)(i)–(vi). The interest in preserving national security is “an urgent objective of the highest order.” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1, 28 (2010). To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.

…The Government’s application to stay the injunction with respect to §§6(a) and (b) is accordingly granted in part. Section 6(a) may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Nor may §6(b); that is, such a person may not be excluded pursuant to §6(b), even if the 50,000 person cap has been reached or exceeded. As applied to all other individuals, the provisions may take effect.

Got that?

“To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.” Continue reading

56 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Rights

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

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

Chicago Justice, Rights, And Pop Culture Malpractice

Dick Wolf, the “Law and Order” creator, is in the process of taking over NBC prime time. He now has four linked dramas dominating the schedule—“Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” and the latest, “Chicago Justice.” (Soon to come, at this rate: “Chicago Sanitation,” “Chicago Pizza,” and “Chicago Cubs.”)

Yesterday was Episode #2 of “Chicago Justice.” The story in involved a “ripped from the headlines” riff on the Brock Turner case, where a woman was raped while unconscious and the rapist received a ridiculously lenient sentence. In Wolf’s alternate universe, however, the judge was murdered, and the rape victim and her ex-husband were suspects. There was another wrinkle too: one of the prosecutors had a close relationship with the dead judge, and was with him right before he was killed. She was going to have to be a witness, and her colleague and supervisor, prosecuting the case, asked her if she had been sleeping with the victim. Such a relationship would have been an ethical violation for the judge, and at least a pre-unethical condition for the prosecutor, requiring her to relocate to a Steven Bochco drama, where lawyers have sex with judges all the time.

The female prosecutor indignantly refused to answer the question. After the case was resolved—I won’t spoil it, but the name “Perry Mason” comes to mind—the two prosecutors made up over a drink. She said that she would have never slept  with “Ray” (the dead judge–when he was alive, that is), but that she remembered reading “in some old document” that we all had “unalienable rights,” she believed one of them was “the right to be respected by your fellow man.”

There is no “right to be respected.” The Declaration of Independence, the “old document” she referenced, lists three rights only, though they are broad ones: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those encompass a right to be respected. The speaker, Anna Valdez (played by Monica Barbaro, a Latina dead ringer for Jill Hennessey, who played the equivalent “Law and Order” role for many years), is a lawyer, and should understand what a right is. It is a legally enforceable guarantee of an entitlement to have something, seek or obtain it,  or to act in a certain ways. As a lawyer, she must understand that this is different from what is right, just or honorable. Her statement, coming from the mouth of a character with presumed expertise and authority, misleads much of the public, which is constantly getting confused over  the difference between Jefferson’s use of “rights” and what is right. So do journalists and, sadly, too many elected officials. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, Romance and Relationships, Workplace