Tag Archives: judicial ethics

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/2/2018: Bad Neighbors And Bad Journalism

Good Morning…

1. Ah, now THAT’S the ol’ Spirit of 1776!  In a subdivision near Sterling Heights in Chesterfield, Michigan,  a resident sent an anonymous letter to other residents, threatening  to take dire measures against them if they set off fireworks after 9 PM  this week. Here’s the letter…

Yikes.

I’m presuming that the real spirit of 1776 still breathes deeply in this nation, and that the reaction of the recipients of that letter will be to make certain that the noisiest fireworks possible are exploding every second during the time they are permitted to be by law, from the start of the week to the end. The neighbor is a coward, a jerk and a bully, and his bluff must be called as a matter of justice and honor. (Pointer: HLN)

2. Nah, the mainstream news media isn’t biased! In an absolutely correct and justified editorial note, Fox News’ Chris Wallace excoriated media outlets on “Fox News Sunday” for attempting to connect President Donald Trump to the newsroom shooting at Capital Gazette in Maryland. (This will, of course, be called an example of Fox News pro-Trump toadying by those same media outlets.) This was indeed one of the most transparent recent episodes of fake news peddling by CNN, Reuters and others in the mainstream media, who worked hard to make the case that the killer of five was motivated by the President’s repeated accusation that the media is “the enemy of the people.” We now know that the shooter swore that he would kill the Capital Gazette writer whom he targeted in the attack years ago, when everyone assumed that Hillary was going to be the next President. Continue reading

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The SCOTUS Ruling In Trump v. Hawaii [UPDATED]

The Supreme Court properly and ethically  killed the burgeoning liberal judicial theory that different Presidents have different restrictions on how they can exercise established Presidential powers. The majority in in the just announced decision in Trump v. Hawaii conclusively struck down a Hawaii judge’s ruling that Trump’s hostile comments about Muslims on the campaign trail rendered his travel restrictions unconstitutional, while a similar measure ordered by a nice President for the right intuited reasons would be presumably acceptable. This seemingly partisan ruling required substituting mind-reading for the President’s stated reasons for the Executive Order, and would have established a terrible precedent in a number of areas.

Sadly, this was another 5-4 ruling where the Court seemed to divide along ideological lines. However, since it seems clear that the five conservatives would have ruled the same way no matter which party’s President had issued the order, while the liberal bloc was indulging “the resistance” with a “Trump is special” approach, only one side of the political divide appears to have left integrity and and objectivity in their spare robes. Many, many commentators around the web have noted that this should have been a 9-0 decision, and that the political bias of the Hawaii decision was flagrant from the start. I agree. The President’s authority in this area is clear and unambiguous.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the government “has set forth a sufficient national security justification” for its action. “We express no view on the soundness of the policy,” Roberts added.

More, from the holding: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid

Wake Up!

1 Fake history, baseball style. Broadcasts of Red Sox games from Fenway Park in Boston refer to “the Pesky Pole,” the official name of the tall, yellow foul pole in right field. It is named in honer of the late Johnny Pesky, who also is honored in a statue outside the park—it featured him and his team mates and longtime friends, Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr. Pesky, with a couple of brief interruptions,was a Red Sox lifer, beginning with his 1942 rookie season, and ending with his death several years ago as an honorary coach. In between, he was Sox minor league manager, the big team’s manager, a hitting coach and a broadcaster.

The Pesky Pole got its name because the notoriously power-free shortstop reputedly hit several of the few he managed to slug in his career by knocking a pitch  around the marker, which arose from  what is now the shortest foul line in baseball. The  low Fenway right field fence veers sharply out from there to over 400 feet, so such homers are considered, and indeed are, lucky flukes. During his brief and undistinguished tenure as a Red Sox radio color man, former Red Sox pitching ace Mel Parnell repeatedly told the story about how Johnny won a game for Mel in 1948 with a pole-shot. This tale led directly to the team officially naming the pole on September 27, 2006, on Pesky’s 87th birthday, with a commemorative plaque placed at its base and everything.

Afterwards, and not before, someone actually checked the game records. Pesky never hit the home run  described by Parnell. He only hit six home runs in Fenway at all, and nobody knows how many hit the pole, looped around the pole, or even went to right field. (Pop-ups hit by Punch-and-Judy hitting shortstops sometimes landed in the screen over the left field wall for home runs, as the cursed Bucky Dent can attest.) Nevertheless, the fake history is in place: the Pesky Pole is named that because Johnny Pesky hit a famous home run off of it, or was famous for looping cheap homers around it, or something.

Baseball excels at creating fake history, the most notable being represented by the locale of its Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York. When the museum was envisioned, the accepted story about the game’s origin was the Union general Abner Doubleday invented the sport in 1839 and organized the first game in Cooperstown. After the construction was underway,  research suggested that everything about the Doubleday tale was rumor and myth, but baseball and the museum’s management, in one of the all-time classic examples of adopting the philosophy of the newspaper editor in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence,” went to great lengths to keep the original story before the public. Eventually some hard evidence surfaced suggesting that the game was invented by Alexander Cartwright, who was eventually inducted into the Hall as the game’s creator, while Doubleday is not. Nonetheless, the myth survives. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, for example,  said in 2010 that “I really believe that Abner Doubleday is the ‘Father of Baseball.'” This is the equivalent of saying that one believes in the Easter Bunny.

Selig was later inducted into the Hall of Fame.

2.Believe it or Not! I would support impeaching  President Trump for his tweeting attacks against Amazon. This is such an abuse of Presidential power that it demands at least a Congressional reprimand or sanction. Amazon lost $53 billion in market value in the wake of the tweets, meaning that investors, retirees, and ordinary Americans lost wealth as well. It is unconscionable for a President of the United States to deliberately target a company, just as it is wrong for a President to punch down at a private citizen, but the consequences of doing what Trump has done to Amazon is far, far worse. The Wall Street Journal suggested in an editorial that if the attack on Amazon was politically motivated because Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, impeachment would be justified. Yes, that would be even worse, but it is not an essential element of this “high crime.” The President of the United States must not abuse his power by intentionally harming lawful businesses.

The foolish resistance is so focused on trying to impeach Trump based on exotic laws and imaginary conspiracies that it doesn’t see the real thing when it’s right in front of its face, and the anti-Trump media has so destroyed its credibility by embracing ridiculous impeachment theories that a valid one will just look like more of the same. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/31/2018: The Baseball-Trained Rifleman, The Hockey Hero Accountant, And Some Other Stuff That’s Just Annoying…

Good morning!

1. “The Rifleman” and “Fix the problem.” I recently was interviewed by a graduate student in organizational leadership and ethics. One thing we discussed was how popular culture in America once dedicated itself to teaching ethical values and ethics problem-solving, especially in shows aimed at young audiences. This is not so true any more; indeed, popular culture models unethical conduct at least as often today.

I told my interviewer about recently watching an episode of “The Rifleman,” the early ’60s TV Western about a single father raising his young son while being called upon to use his skill with a rifle to fight for civilization in the harsh frontier.  In the episode, hero Lucas McCain (played by the under-rated Chuck Connors) had to deal with an old friend, now an infamous outlaw, who had come to town. (The ethical conflict between personal loyalty and an individual’s  duty to society was a frequent theme in Westerns.) Lucas was a part-time deputy, and at the climax of the episode, his friend-gone-bad is prepared to ride out of town to escape arrest for his latest crime. Lucas tells him not to leave, and that if he tries to escape, Lucas will have to let his custom-made rifle settle the matter, as usual. (Peace-loving Lucas somehow managed to kill over a hundred men during the run of the series.)  Smirking, his friend (Richard Anderson, later known as the genius behind “The Six Million Dollar Man”), says that he knows his old friend is bluffing. For Lucas owes him a lifetime debt: he once saved “The Rifleman’s” life.  You’re a good man and a fair man, the villain says. “You won’t shoot me. I know you.” Then he mounts his horse , and with a smiling glance back at “The Rifleman,” who is seemingly paralyzed by the ethical conflict, starts to depart. Now his back is all Lucas has to shoot at, doubling the dilemma.  You never shoot a man in the back, an ethical principle that the two officers who killed Stephon Clark somehow missed. We see McCain look at his deadly rifle, then again at the receding horseman. Then, suddenly, he hurls his rifle, knocking his friend off his horse. The stunned man is arrested by the sheriff, and says, lamely, as he’s led away. “I knew you wouldn’t shoot me.”

I love this episode. It teaches that we have to seek the best solution available when we face ethics conflicts, and that this often requires rejecting the binary option presented to us, and finding a way to fix the problem.

Of course, it helped that Chuck Connors used to play for the Dodgers, and could hurl that rifle with the accuracy of Sandy Koufax.

2. Here we go again! Now that anti-gun hysteria is again “in,” thanks to the cynical use of some Parkland students to carry the anti-Second Amendment message without having to accept the accountability adults do when they make ignorant, dishonest, and illogical arguments in public, teachers and school administrators are back to chilling free speech and expression by abusing their students with absurd “no-tolerance” enforcement. At North Carolina’s Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School, for example, a 13-year-old boy in the seventh grade was suspended for two days for drawing  a stick figure holding a gun.

I drew pictures like this—well, I was little better at it—well into my teens. It’s a picture. It isn’t a threat. It isn’t anything sinister, except to hysterics and fanatics without a sense of perspective or proportion—you know, the kind of people who shouldn’t be trusted to mold young minds. “Due to everything happening in the nation, we’re just being extra vigilant about all issues of safety,” said Sampson County Schools’ Superintendent Eric Bracy, an idiot. How does punishing a boy for a drawing make anyone safer? It makes all of us less safe, by pushing  us one step closer to government censorship of speech and thought.

Then we have Zach Cassidento, a high school senior at Amity High Regional School in Connecticut who was suspended and arrestedarrested!—for posting a picture of his birthday gift, an Airsoft gun, on Snapchat. He was not charged, but was suspended for a day from school….for posting, outside of school, on his personal account, the picture of an entirely legal toy gun (It shoots plastic pellets: my son has several of them).

The people who do this kind of thing to children in violation of their rights as Americans are the same people who cheer on David Hogg while signing factually and legally ridiculous petitions. They should not be permitted to teach, and this kind of conduct ought to be punished.

Where is the ACLU? For the organization not to attack these abuses is an abdication of the organization’s mission. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Bill Cosby’s Bias Argument

As Bill Cosby’s latest trial gets underway, “the Cos” and his lawyers contend that the presiding judge should recuse himself because the judge’s wife is an advocate for sexual assault victims. Judge Steven O’Neill’s wife, Deborah O’Neill, is a social worker on a University of Pennsylvania special staff that advocates for students who are alleged victims of sexual assault. According to the motion for the judge to recuse, she has donated money to a victims advocacy group that plans an anti-Cosby rally outside the courthouse during Cosby’s trial.

 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should the political activities, public statements or occupation of a spouse be considered a sufficient conflict of interest to mandate judge’s recusal?

Continue reading

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Now THIS Is An Unethical Judge!

I don’t know what’s happening to judges’ judgment  lately, but it’s not good.

Texas State District Judge George Gallagher was annoyed by defendant Terry Lee Morris’s refusal to answer his questions and making various statements himself, so he ordered that Morris have a stun belt strapped around his legs. From the Appeals Court opinion:

“Mr. Morris, I am giving you one warning,” Gallagher told Morris outside the presence of the jury. “You will not make any additional outbursts like that, because two things will happen. Number 1, I will either remove you from the courtroom or I will use the shock belt on you.”

“All right, sir,” Morris said.

The judge continued: “Now, are you going to follow the rules?”

“Sir, I’ve asked you to recuse yourself,” said Morris.

Gallagher asked again: “Are you going to follow the rules?”

“I have a lawsuit pending against you,” responded Morris.

“Hit him,” Gallagher said to the bailiff.

The bailiff pressed the button that shocks Morris, and then Gallagher asked him again whether he is going to behave. Morris told Gallagher he had a history of mental illness.

“Hit him again,” the judge ordered.

Morris protested that he was being “tortured” just for seeking the recusal.

Gallagher asked the bailiff, “Would you hit him again?”

Each “hit” sent an eight-second, 50,000-volt shock into Morris. Judge Gallagher had Morris shocked three times. It terrified Morris sufficiently that he didn’t return for the remainder of his trial and missed almost all of his sentencing hearing. Continue reading

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Now THIS Is An Unethical Judge! (Plus An Important ProEthics Announcement…) [UPDATED!]

 

Judge Jack Robison,  a state district judge in Comal County, Texas, interrupted jury deliberations to announce that God had informed him that a woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex should be be found not guilty. Robisonapologized to jurors for the interruption, but explained “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.”  To their credit, the jury found Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of  trafficking anyway.

Mysteriously, 12 perfect pillars of salt were later discovered outside the courthouse.

Kidding!

Judge Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase, for which he deserves some credit. Says a local news source,  “Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.” COULD trigger? COULD TRIGGER??????

This, following the unethical sentencing performance by the judge in the Larry Nasser trial,  is the tipping point for me. Although I have an excellent and constantly updated judicial ethics seminar that I will customize for different jurisdictions (I will soon be adding, “Don’t take messages from God mid-trial to the Texas version, for example), I almost never have the opportunity to teach it. Judges, unlike lawyers, don’t have ethics requirements other that the local Codes of Judicial Conduct. They don’t have to take regular classes in judicial ethics either, and many of them—like,oh, just to pull a name out of the air, ROY MOORE–couldn’t tell a tenet of judicial ethics from a cross-eyed echidna.  Most judicial organizations don’t budget for ethics training.

Thus I am announcing, here and now, that henceforth my ethics training and consulting company ProEthics, LTD., will provide me, my judicial ethics course and the extensive materials it includes for any judicial group of any size anywhere in the country at no cost, save for my travel and, if necessary, lodging.

This will be offered as a public service throughout 2018, and we will evaluate the policy at the end of the year.

___________________________________

UPDATE: This, from the ABA…

Few federal judges face consequences as a result of misconduct complaints, and few of the complaints become public, according to a CNN analysis.

CNN reviewed nearly 5,000 judicial orders related to misconduct complaints and found that the documents “are remarkably short on details.” Since 2006, fewer than 10 cases a year were referred to a special committee for a closer investigation, and in six of the past 11 years no judges were sanctioned for misconduct. In some high-profile cases, judges facing misconduct complaints retire, putting an end to the investigation and preserving access to their pensions, the CNN investigation found…

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