Unethical Quote Of The Month: The Sussmann Jury Forewoman

“I don’t think it should have been prosecuted. There are bigger things that affect the nation than a possible lie to the FBI.”

—-The forewoman in the just completed Sussman trial, which acquitted Clinton Campaign lawyer Michael Sussman of lying to the FBI when he presented bogus evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with Russia and said he was doing so as “a private citizen” when in fact he was carrying out the strategy of Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

The  breaking story yesterday, covered at Ethics Alarms here, had less than 24 hours hours of innocence in which the responsible response (and mine) was “we should give the jury the benefit of the doubt; they were in the courtroom for the whole trial, we were not.” Now we know, thanks to this woman, that the jury members were under the influence of progressive-programed  confusion and bias, and were either incapable of fulfilling the duties of a jury, or prompted by the leadership of this proudly unethical fool, chose not to. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You”

An Ethics Alarms commenter with the evocative screen name of Fuck you, who is a bit behind on his surfing, or perhaps a really, really slow reader, was moved to author today’s Comment of the Day on a post from seven years ago regarding the tactics used by Mississippi law enforcement to foil a legal demonstration by Fred Phelps’ merry band of homophobes.

Why is this a Comment of the Day? It perfectly embodies the rudimentary, lizard-brain level of ethical analysis that predominates in the public, in much of the media, and among our elected officials. It is helpful, to me at least, to read such comments, for this is exactly the find of gut-level, emotion-based, legally and ethically ignorant reaction that my work exists to overcome. I’ll have more to say after the Fuck You has his say.

As an aside, it was nostalgic reading the names of the commenters on the original post. There, for example, fighting as usual, were liberal logic-cop tgt and uber-conservative Stephen Mark Pilling. Ah, those were the days…

Here is Fuck You’s Comment of the Day on the post, Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You—I’ll be back at the end:

Fuck you for this comparison. I know I’m coming in years later with this and I hope that others have already expressed a similar sentiment. I also understand the point you are trying to make. But still FUCK YOU. I sincerely hope that if you ever lose someone dear to you, these fucking hatemongers show up and protest that person’s funeral. FUCK YOU. Yes they have a right to protest but this type of shit should definitely qualify as a reasonable restriction, like yelling fire in a crowed theater.

FUCK YOU. This comparison is not only an insult to the Marine in question but also to the civil rights activists from decades ago that you just compared to the fucking WBC. FUCK YOU.

Once again Fuck you, you goddamn scum ass mother fucker. Oh, and FUCK YOU.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/24/17 [UPDATED]

GOOD MORNING!

1. I’m moving this to the top from its original placement at the end. I warned that the mania for retroactive statue-toppling and historical air-brushing was a deadly slippery slope to cultural chaos from the moment Dylan Roof’s rampage primed the Confederate flag banning push. I said that there was no clear stop on that slope, and that this was a massive ethical error that would quickly spin out of control.

I am accepting apologies and “You were right, I was wrong” messages at jamproethics@verizon.net. I will reply gracefully.

2. It’s a good thing, in some ways, that President Trump has no ethics alarms, or has them but doesn’t understand what all the ringing means, because if he did, he might realize that he has put himself in ethics zugswang in the matter of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-illegal immigration zealot who is facing up to six months in jail for defying a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos based solely on the suspicion of their legal status. Trump has been urged to pardon Arpaio. Let’s see:

  • Arpaio did defy a judicial order. Should a law enforcement official be treated especially harshly when he does this?

Yes.

  • The judicial order related to Arpaio’s practice of assuming that individuals of Hispanic descent were more likely to be violating the immigration laws in his jurisdiction than other citizens. Since his jurisdiction was rife with Hispanic illegals, was this an unreasonable assumption on his part? No. Was it still discriminatory? Sure. Is the balance between profiling, which in such situations is a valuable law-enforcement tool, and the importance of equal treatment under the law a difficult one legally and ethically? Yes. Does a sheriff have the right and authority to ignore the way this balance is decided one legal authorities define it?

No.

  • Is the determination of this balance often polluted by ideological biases, in this case, against enforcement of immigration laws?

Yes.

  • Do Donald Trump, and his supporters, and those Americans who may not be his supporters but who agree that allowing foreign citizens to breach our borders at will without legal penalties is certifiably insane, believe that Arpaio’s position on illegal immigration is essentially correct and just?

Yes.

  • Nonetheless, did his ham-handed methods give ammunition to open-borders, pro-illegal immigration, race-baiting activists like the one who told the New York Times,

“Trump is delivering a slap in the face to dignified, hard-working people whose lives were ripped apart by Arpaio. Arpaio belongs in jail, getting a taste of his own medicine. Trump wants to put Arpaio above the law, showing they are both about white supremacy.”

  • Is sending Arpaio to jail a political imprisonment?

Yes, although he made it easy to justify on non-political grounds.

  • Are political prisoners the ideal objects of Presidential pardons?

Yes.

  • Would pardoning him send dangerous messages (it’s OK to violate judicial orders you think are wrong; the ends justifies the means; Presidents should meddle in local law enforcement, “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice”) as well as defensible ones ( judges and elected official enabling illegal immigration are a threat to the rule of law; Joe is an old man with a long record of public service who deserves mercy even though he was wrong…)

Yes.

  • Will such a pardon, especially as the news media is again spinning to make the case that Trump is sympathetic with xenophobes and white nationalists, further inflame an overly emotional debate that needs to be calmed, not exacerbated?

God, yes.

  • Is the most responsible course for Trump to stay out of this mess?

YES!

  • Will he?

Of course not. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/23/17

Good Morning!

(BOY, there are a lot of especially stupid ethics stories today…)

1. This:

That’s right: an Asian-American broadcaster who never fought for the South during the Civil War has been robbed of a job assignment because his virtue-signaling, grandstanding mega-corporation wants to side with the statute-toppling Left. ESPN regrets that the NAME of one of its broadcasters has become an issue? Who made it an issue? ESPN, that’s who.

Nah, there’s no slippery slope! Nah, this is just about Civil War generals! Nah, the people behind the historical purge or reasonable…they won’t just keep looking for more ways to claim they are being offended!

Can you tell I am losing patience with the defenders, enablers and rationalizes of this toxic nonsense?

2. Or is this dumber? From issue scout Neil, who writes, “Watch the video. [Trump] gestures for the crowd to look up at the sky, then makes a show of looking himself (though CLEARLY not actually trying to see the eclipse). I must have seen at least a dozen other  people yesterday scan the sky in a similar fashion before accidentally getting blinded by an eye-full of rays. The man is inept beyond belief, but he’s not wearing a bib. God this  irritates me.”

These are the ways that that the newsmedia signals to anyone with an open mind and not drooling, gnashing and recoiling at the sight of water from end-stages Anti-Trump Brain-Eating Virus infection that it cannot be trusted, and has traded of its integrity, honesty, fairness and objectivity to lead the “Destroy the Elected President of the United States” effort. No, the President did not actually look directly into the sun and blind himself. In fact, I did exactly the same thing he did when I glanced up at the sun sideways for a nanosecond wondering why so many idiots were lying on the ground wearing 3-D glasses. This is the epitome of fake news—fake, because the intent of the item is to mislead, and because it is no more news than “President uses wrong fork at State Dinner.” No other President, ever, under any scenario, would be covered this way, and no news publication would ever print anything so dumb unless it was certain that its readers were gullible, deranged, and even dumber.

Prof. Glenn Reynolds:If the press and the political opposition — but I repeat myself — were just sober, straightforward, and honest they could beat Trump easily. But then, if they were capable of that, we wouldn’t have gotten Trump to begin with.”

3. My wife reminded me that I have been flagging deception in obnoxious ways since long before ProEthics and Ethics Alarms.  When we were dating, she had a bowl of soup at a Georgetown campus hangout called The Tombs, and I had a cup of the same soup, for $1.50 less. I asked the waitress for a clean bowl and cup,  and poured water into the cup until it was at soup-level, and then poured that water into the empty bowl, which it filled. Then I asked her to get the manager, whom I asked to explain why a bowl cost more than a cup when the amount of soup was the same. he had no explanation of course.

You’ll be amazed how many restaurants do this. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/23/17

Good Morning!

1. Not a single comment on yesterday’s sole warm-up topic, the propriety of complimenting someone’s physical appearance or features? That’s fascinating.

2. I had to wrestle my fingers to the ground yesterday to avoid writing a full post on this editorial by the New York Times editors. I know everyone is sick of Ethics Alarms pointing out the relentless, unprofessional anti-Trump bias in the news media, because I’m sick of  writing about it. This may have been a new low, however. In the wake of Sean Spicer’s resignation as White House press secretary, the Times unleashed the equivalent of a mean playground taunt.  To read it, one would never guess that the Times had ever experienced any other press secretaries, especially President Obama’s trio of Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney and Josh Earnest , who were uniformly dishonest with disgraceful regularity. Spicer was a “four Pinocchio” spokesman? The standrad term her for Obama’s press lackies was “paid liars,” and the description was fair. Yet the Times didn’t greet the news of any of their withdrawals for the post with “Nyah nyah nyah you suck!” editorials, because the New York Times accepted that President’s lies and deceptions as designed for the greater good.

Of course, it was exactly this unethical journalistic bias that caused Spicer to adopt the attitude that most prompted the Times to attack him personally on his way out the door. He believed that journalists who don’t behave like journalists need not he respected as journalists, and he was absolutely correct in this. Indeed, no newspaper that isn’t able to discern that an editorial like the one yesterday regrading Spicer makes it look like a partisan hackery shop should be respected at all. Spicer was a really bad spokesman—inarticulate, inept, dishonest and not very bright. Nonetheless, he was trying to do a difficult job, did his best, and was no more nor less awful at it than all but a few Presidential press secretaries over the last half century or so. Only Spicer, however, was deemed deserving of such insults at the end, not even Ron Ziegler, Nixon’s complicit press secretary who looked and sounded like a half-successful laboratory clone of his boss. That is because the Times’ editorial was personal, based on emotion and anger, and an ethics alarms void.

3. This story from Canada reads like it was designed to illustrate the folly of giving government more power over our lives rather than less. Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 1

bad-2016

Welcome, if that’s the word, to the 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards.

Last year, in a burst of self-pity as I began this annual task, I wrote,

“It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries!—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty. Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…”

Then came 20i6.

To paraphrase  Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts: It’s going to a bumpy post…”

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

train-wreck-air

The Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck

I thought last year was the Year of the Train Wreck. Wrong. In 2016, we had the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, the Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, the old stand-by Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, the still active Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, and the Ethics Train Wrecks of both Presidential candidates campaigns. Hillary’s e-mails and their related lies in the long trail of cars called the Hillary Clinton E-Mail Scandal Ethics Train Wreck, was a clear winner though.

Passengers included President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, the F.B.I., Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, James Comey and more. And, of course, it played a significant and perhaps decisive role in bringing us President Trump.

Runner-Up: 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck. It had less than a month to get up steam, but it caused lots of ethics carnage, and is still going strong.

Fraud of the Year

The Trump Foundation, which revealed itself to be a near total sham. RUNNER-UP: Fake lawyer Kimberly Kitchen, who worked as an estate planning lawyer at BMZ Law in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and served as president of the county bar, though she never went to law school, and never took the bar exam, but forged documents to fool everyone that she had.

Most Unethical Act By A Major Church

The Catholic Church, which, incredibly, restored a convicted rapist to the priesthood. Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, while serving in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005 raped at least two adolescent girls.  After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation. Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India, while the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her. In February, the Vatican lifted Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

Tell me again why that fake news story that the Pope endorsed Trump was supposed to help The Donald.

Incompetent Elected Official of the Year

kkane

Kathleen G. Kane (D), Pennsylvania’s ex-Attorney General.  In October, a judge sentenced her to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges of perjury and abuse of her office. You can’t be more incompetent, I’d say, than an elected attorney general who can’t stay out of jail herself. I regret not writing about the Kane saga last year, but her ethical void was fairly apparent back in 2013, the only time I did write about her, after she leaked grand jury testimony, which is illegal. I wrote at the time (I must have been in a bad mood)…

“Leaking grand jury testimony is both illegal and spectacularly unethical for a lawyer, yet Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, appears to have done it for the slimiest of reasons, and is offering the most cynical of defenses in the most offensive of ways. (Incidentally, I don’t understand how this could happen. After all, Kane is a woman, the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected to the post, and since having a vagina alone is supposed to imbue a candidate with trustworthiness, surpassing competence and virtue, this makes no sense at all.)”

Unethical Elected Official of the Year

Continue reading

The Ethics Meltdown Of Elie Mystal Continues

Surprise! This isn't MY head exploding. It's Elie Mystal's!

Surprise! This isn’t MY head exploding. It’s Elie Mystal’s!

“Above the Law”‘s Elie Mystal has crossed over from being a provocative, if often emotion-driven and unprofessional, legal news analyst to being an Angry Black Man for whom law and justice is tangential. As Ethics Alarms covered here, Mystal already has proclaimed that the existence of a single intransigent juror who hung the jury in the Michael Slager trial proves that whites are incapable of race-blind justice. In his latest stage of racist fury, Mystal now wants black jurors to sabotage the justice system.

“Black people lucky enough to get on a jury could use that power to acquit any person charged with a crime against white men and white male institutions. It’s not about the race of the defendant, but if the alleged victim is a white guy, or his bank, or his position, or his authority: we could acquit. Assault? Acquit. Burglary? Acquit. Insider trading? Acquit.Murder? … what the hell do you think is happening to black people out here? What the hell do you think we’re complaining about when your cops shoot us or choke us? Acquit. Don’t throw “murder” at me like it’s some kind of moral fault line where the risk of letting one go is too great. Black people ARE BEING MURDERED, and the system isn’t doing a damn thing to hold their killers accountable. Sorry I’m not sorry if this protest idea would put the shoe on the other foot for a change.”

You can read the rest; it’s all like this. Mystal is bonkers. There’s no reasoning or fairness in his screed. He’s just fulminating, growling and slobbering like a rabid dog. It’s sad. Nobody can take anyone who expresses this kind of irrational hate as a response to frustration seriously. He’s not accurate, he’s not truthful, he’s not responsible. He has left law and logic so far behind he may never work his way back to them.

I’ll touch on just a few splashes of Mystal’s projectile hate-vomit: Continue reading

Of Bundys, Trump, Wikileaks, Rebellion—You Know, The Whole 2016 Election Thing

jury-nullThe jigsaw puzzle of an existential national crisis, a real one, are assembling sufficiently so an image can be distinguished. It is uglier than I imagined.

1. Item:  The Bundy Brothers were acquitted. This was pure jury nullification, because they were guilty as hell. It might be an aberration, but I fear it is not. The jury is a fractal of democracy, and when juries start finding lawbreakers innocent, they are sending a message that those in power ignore at their peril. They say “We don’t like or respect you or your laws, and you better change, or else.” The complete class, regional and ideological estrangement from the Federal government this decision represents shows how completely Barack Obama has divided the nation, and portend a long, long, difficult and, one can only hope non-violent recovery, if some competent leaders emerge who can handle it. As trust in our institutions have collapsed with accelerating speed over the last decade, civility has deteriorated and authorities have increasingly threatened the basic Constitutional rights of citizens while extending privileges to non-citizens for political motives, the connective tissue of our society has been frayed to the snapping point. Responsible leadership, objective  and rational citizens must not shrug this verdict off as just a bunch of gun nuts and cowboys throwing a tantrum.

2. Item: Donald Trump keeps saying that the election is “rigged.” This is beyond irresponsible, in isolation not more irresponsible than what Trump has said about other things, but the timing and sheer intensity of this drumbeat from him is truly horrible….and also likely to be effective.  Continue reading

“Baretta,” The Ethics of Criminal Justice, And Keeping The Sentence From The Jury

Just stay in the box, everybody...

Just stay in the box, everybody…

Florida criminal defense lawyer has made a thorough and passionate argument on his blog for letting a jury know what the sentence is likely to be if it convicts the defendant in a criminal trial. He writes in part:

Florida juries are not permitted to know the most basic truth of a case—the potential sentence. Kind of crazy, right? Citizens are not allowed to know the sentence that will result from their verdict out of fear that such information would sway the jury’s conscience toward not guilty (God forbid a jury with a conscience!). Such fears say a lot about how harsh our criminal justice system has become. Continue reading

Jury Nullification Ethics: Denver’s District Attorney Tries To Make It Illegal To Teach Jurors About The Power Of Juries

ZengerIs it just me, or does it seem to everyone as if  a lot of public officials have been trying to shrink the First Amendment lately?

Jury nullification is the doctrine, rich in jurisprudential and American history, that declares that juries have the power and the right to reject what they believe are either unjust criminal laws or unjust prosecutions, and acquit defendants who may have been proven guilty on the evidence, essentially nullifying the law by refusing to enforce it . They definitely have that power: once a citizen is declared not guilty, that citizen cannot be tried again. The dilemma is that neither judges nor lawyers are permitted to let juries know about nullification, since nullification defies the law. A defense lawyer mentioning it in a closing argument risks a mistrial, and bar sanctions. In most jurisdictions, judges instruct jurors that it is their duty to apply the law as it is written whether they agree with the law or not. In only a few states are jurors expressly permitted to judge both the facts and the law of the case. In 2012, New Hampshire passed a unique law explicitly allowing defense attorneys to inform juries about jury nullification.

In Denver this week, Mark Iannicelli, 56, set up a small booth with a sign that said “Juror Info” in front of the city’s courthouse. The Denver District Attorney’s Office has charged him with eight counts of jury tampering, because Iannicelli used that booth to hand out flyers about jurors’ rights to practice jury nullification to jury pool members. Yes, he has been charged with tampering with juries that aren’t even juries yet. Continue reading