Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

Ominous Anti-Free Speech Quote Of The Year: U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik

“The Court declines to wade through these issues based on the limited record before it and instead presumes that the private defendants have a First Amend ment right to disseminate the CAD files. That right is currently abridged, but it has not been abrogated. Regulation under the AECA means that the files cannot be uploaded to the internet, b ut they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States. The Court finds that the irreparable burdens on the private defendants’ First Amendment rights are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the States are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, overall, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation.”

—U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, in his preliminary injunction issued today blocking the federal government from allowing publication of the blueprints of 3-D printable guns.

The injunction will stand until final resolution of the multi-state lawsuit seeking to keep the blueprints offline. Lasnik had issued a temporary restraining order in the case July 31, prompting this post, which states the Ethics Alarms position still:

“It sure sounds like prior restraint to me, and I suspect, when this gets to the Supreme Court, which it inevitably will, that will be the conclusion.

This began as one more example of the Obama Administration playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights. Now, it may well be, as the suit by the states alleges, that the Trump Administration didn’t handle its legal U-turn properly, it being, after all, the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the government blocking the online publication of information, which is what a blueprint is, when no copyrights, patents or trademarks are being violated or national secrets revealed, seems like a pretty clear First Amendment violation.”

If Lasnik’s langauge about “abridged, but it has not been abrogated” doesn’t send chills down your spine, I guess that means you’re a typical progressive or Democrat these days. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” meaning that the judge here admits that his ruling and the law suit are efforts to cut another chunk out of our core national values. But hey, it’s all cool! The ends justify the means, and we all know that guns are bad. That Second Amendment thingy? Once we take down the First, the Second will be a piece of cake.

As was discussed at length in the excellent thread on the previous post, it’s a long, long way, not just from May to December, but also from having the blueprint of a #-D printable gun and actually having a gun. Does the judge full comprehend that? I doubt it very much. If there is one theme that runs through judicial decisions and opinion involving rapidly evolving technology, it is that most judges and too many lawyers don’t understand the technology well-enough to regulate it or make coherent policy.

I still think this is such an obvious example of prior restraint that the Supreme Court will knock it down, especially after Kavanaugh joins the Court, and I hope I am wrong that the anti-Second Amendment liberal wing will unite in dissent, but I believe that is likely.

Sigh.

Ought I to say this? What the hell….

I am increasingly coming to believe that what is really at stake in the upcoming elections is the Bill of Rights, and perhaps our democracy itself.  The “resistance’s” attempt to undo the election of President Trump is just part of a long-term, concerted assault on our institutions, by a growing faction that believes that freedom and liberty are too dangerous to be left in the wrong hands, and must be constrained—abridged, so to speak—by those who know best.

Them.

________________________

Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

Now THIS Is An Incompetent Judge…

The sky’s the limit!

High school  wrestler and football player Logan Michael Osborn, then 18, met a 14-year-old girl at a high school play in April 2017. After the curtain fell, they went for a walk down a secluded path, where Osborn overcame the young woman, tied a belt around her neck and hands, and performed a sex act. Osborn’s defense attorneys argued that it all was consensual, but consensual or not, she was still only 14, making this statutory rape.

In September 2017, Osborn pleaded guilty to sexual assault, saying that his conduct was the result of  “poor judgement.”  The judge sentenced Osborn to 10 years in prison with eight years suspended on his conviction of having carnal knowledge of the girl without use of force, a felony. Osborn also had to register as a sex offender. In January, however,  Chesterfield (Virginia) Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler stayed the  two-year term, saying he wanted to review the case further,and this week, he revealed the result of his review. The entire 10-year sentence is now stayed, meaning that Osborn will receive no prison time at all.

At last week’s hearing, Judge Hauler asked to hear “some positive things” about Osborn so James Trent, a foreman at an electrical company where he now works, commended Osborn’s work ethic and performance, saying that “sky’s the limit” for his future. The negative things? Well, he does appear to be a habitual sexual predator, if that counts. He has been accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with girls seven previous times, including when he was 12. In that case, Osborn was charged with grabbing the genitals of another student. (The case was dismissed.) Continue reading

Legal Ethics Train Wreck on “The Good Wife”

Oh, Alicia, Alicia...what have they done to you?

The CBS legal drama “The Good Wife” continues to show the seamy side of big firm legal practice, with heroine Alicia Florrick’s firm, Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, its adversaries, and even Good Alicia herself violating legal ethics rules with abandon, and at an accelerating rate, based on recent episodes. There is nothing wrong with this as entertainment, as long as the Rules themselves are not being misrepresented (they aren’t), the misconduct isn’t being presented as ethical (it isn’t, though it is sometimes hard to tell), and viewers don’t get the idea that this is how most law firms behave. Unfortunately, like most legal shows, “The Good Wife” fails in this important realm. I work with many large law firms, and they are all very aware on the ethical lines, bold or fuzzy, that they must not cross, and take their obligations seriously.

The most recent episode of “The Good Wife,” entitled “Getting Off” included a full-fledged ethics train wreck sparked by the firm’s habitually unethical adversary, the fecund Patti Nyholm. In the middle of representing the defendant hospital in a lawsuit brought by a Lockhart, Gardner and Bond, Nyholm is fired by her firm and removed from the case. With a twinkle in her eye, she approaches none other than the Lockhart firm to represent her in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against her former firm for discrimination and wrongful termination, on the theory that it fired her because she was pregnant. Continue reading