Observations On Donald Trump’s Anti-Judge Rant (And The Selective Outrage Regarding It))

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If I was still doing an “Unethical Donald Trump Quote Of The Day,” it certainly would have qualified. Here is Trump, blathering on, as usual,  at a rally about the case that is currently pending in federal court regarding the alleged charges that Trump University was a scam:

The trial, they wanted it to start while I am running for President. The trial is going to take place sometime in November. There should be no trial. This should have been dismissed on summary judgment easily. Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curial. And he is not doing the right thing. I figure what the hell? Why not talk about it for two minutes. Should I talk about it? Yes? [cheers and applause] so we should have won. . . .

I am getting railroaded by a legal system, and frankly they should be ashamed. I will be here in November. Hey, if I win as president, it is a civil case. I could have settled this case numerous times. But I don’t want to settle cases when we are right. I don’t believe in it. When you start settling cases, do you know what happens? Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler. One thing about me, I am not known as the settler.

And people understand with this whole thing, with this whole deal with the lawyers, class action lawyers are the worst. It is a scam. Here is what happens. We are in front of a very hostile judge. The judge was appointed by by Barack Obama – federal judge. [Boos]. Frankly he should recuse himself. He has given us ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative. I have a top lawyer who said he has never seen anything like this before. So what happens is we get sued. We have a Magistrate named William Gallo who truly hates us.

The good news is it is a jury trial. We can even get a fully jury. We are entitled to a jury, and we want a jury of 12 people. And you are going to watch. First of all, it should be dismissed. Watch how we win it as I have been treated unfairly. . . . So what happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe Mexican, which is great. I think that is fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs. I think they are going to love it. I think they are going to love me. . . .

A lot of people said before you run you should settle. I said I don’t care. The people understand it. And they use it. So when I have 10,000 people, and when we have mostly unbelievable reviews, how do you settle? And in fact, when the case started originally, I said how can I settle when I have a review like this? Now I should have settled, but I am glad I didn’t. I will be seeing you in November either as president. And I will say this. I have all these great reviews, but I will say this. I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself. I think it is a disgrace he is doing this. I look forward to going before a jury, not this judge, and we will win that trial. We will win that trial. Check it out. Check it out, folks. You know, I tell this to people. November 28. I think it is scheduled for. It should not be a trial. It should be a summary judgment dismissal. . . .

It is a disgrace. It is a rigged system. I had a rigged system, except we won by so much. This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court. They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Ok? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case? Where everybody likes it.

Ok. This is called life, folks. . . .

Now, we are told, “legal experts” are concerned that this rant “signals a remarkable disregard for judicial independence.” Freaking out entirely, Washington Post writer David Post (I guess he’s the paper’s son?) wrote..

“No, this is called “authoritarianism.” It’s what Berlusconi sounded like, what Chávez sounded like and what Perón sounded like — for that matter, it’s what Sulla and Caesar and the others who helped destroy the world’s first great republic sounded like: I am bigger than the law, I AM THE LAW.”

I have searched and I have searched, and darned if I can’t find Post expressing similar horrors when President Barrack Obama attacked the Supreme Court of the United States while misrepresenting its decision in Citizens United to its face, during the televised  State of the Union address in 2010.  The New York Times Adam Liptak, however, wrote at the time, Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges Decisions And Their Aftermath

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 Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court considered whether states had to recognize a right to same-sex marriages, and King v. Burwell, in which the Court was called upon to clarify some incompetent drafting in the Affordable Care Act, could not be more dissimilar in terms of issues, topics, and significance. Nonetheless, because the two decisions involved hot political issues and arrived on consecutive days, and because they ended up favoring the positions that Democratic and progressive partisans support, they have been conglomerated in public discourse to fit several general themes, all, to varying degrees, misleading, simplistic, and biased. The decisions have also launched some of the most hysterical and embarrassing commentary in recent memory.

Some ethics, as opposed to legal, observations:

1. Anyone who hasn’t read the majority opinions and the dissents, who just skimmed them—believe me, if law school taught me anything, it taught me that skimming court opinions was a sure road to error and humiliation—or who read them but could not understand them, should be ignored, and perhaps gently mocked, for expressing any view at all about whether the decisions were the “right” ones. Quite simply, such people are not qualified to hold an opinion. They can have, and express, an opinion regarding whether the Court’s calls on Burwell or Obergefell are consistent with their own needs, desires, belief or political orientation, but they have no basis for asserting that either decision is wrong, or, right, on the law.

2. One can find it troubling and ominous, as I do, that the votes on the two cases were as predictable as they were. Objective legal scholars with integrity should be capable of ruling in ways that are not congruent with the personal political philosophies. A Democratic Presidential appointee who favors expansive government activity in health care control should be able to look at a statute designed to accomplish that purpose and still conclude, “Nope, the law mean what they want it to mean,” or “Sorry, the damn thing is unconstitutional.” Similarly, we should be able to trust a politically conservative justice to examine a statute that he objects to on principle and still conclude, “Yup, it passes the test.” Maybe all the Justices are capable of meeting this standard, but these two cases don’t suggest that. They suggest the opposite. Continue reading

Sweet Briar College’s Fate And Fait Accompli Ethics

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 UPDATE (6/15): I am officially nominating this post as the Most Typo-Riddled Ethics Alarms Article of 2015. At least I hope it is—alerted by a reader, I just found and fixed about 10, and I have no idea what happened. I suspect that I somehow pasted the next-to-last draft instead of the final. My proofreading is bad, but not THAT bad. I am embarrassed, and apologize to all: that kind of sloppiness is never excusable, but I especially regret it on a topic this important.

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Sweet Briar College was officially scheduled for termination, date of execution later this summer, by a board that chose not to offer alumnae and other interested parties a fair opportunity to raise objections, propose solutions, or mount a rescue effort. Indeed it was almost an ambush.

Although the distinguished graduates of Virginia’s unique and venerable all-female college have mounted a spirited effort to reverse this dubious move, time is not on their side. Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, working with the passionate opposition to Sweet Briar’s closing, argued in court that this would violate the terms of the will upon which the college was founded, and that the college’s board has engaged in malfeasance or misfeasance, violating its fiduciary duties and misusing charitable funds. A circuit court refused Bowyer’s request for a temporary injunction that would at least delay the closing —Tick-Tick-Tick!—and the case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. Those  justices concluded that the lower court, in denying the injunctive relief, erred by concluding that that the law of trusts do not apply to a corporation like the college.  It does. So now the case returns to the circuit court to reconsider the merits.

Tick-Tick-Tick!

I find this infuriating and heart-breaking. As I’m certain the college’s treacherous board knew in March, legal challenges and court decisions take time, and the realities of the academic year halt for no man, or woman. It’s June now, and Sweet Briar has no 2015 entering class. Its sophomores and juniors are seeking, or have found, other schools as well. One of Sweet Briar’s problems—not an insuperable one to a board appropriately dedicated to is traditions and mission—was increasingly lagging enrollment. Whatever the solutions to that may be, skipping a year of entering freshman is not one of them. Faculty have to eat: presumably most, if not all of them, and the staff, are seeking employment elsewhere. The battle to save Sweet Briar, as noble and as important as it is, may have been lost from the start, simply because the clock, and the calendar, keeps moving.

This was, I fear, a fait accompli of the worst variety, an unjust, unfair, even illegal action that is successful because once set in motion, there is no way to stop it. Using the fait accompli strategy is intrinsically unethical, and the mark of an “ends justifies the means” orientation. It is based on the principle that an omelet, once made, cannot be unmade, because eggs can’t be put together again. In a situation where the ethical, fair, procedurally just approach is to debate and challenge a proposed policy action before it takes place, the fait accompli approach operates on the practical maxim that if you have no options, you have no problem. In essence, it says, “Yes, you may be right, but what are you going to do about it?” Continue reading

SPECTACULARLY Unethical Quote Of The Week: President Obama

“Don’t blame us for all the mistakes in the law—look at how long it is!”

…on the Affordable Care Act and King v.Burwell, at his news conference. When President Obama was asked about the soon to be announced Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, he launched in an epic of unethical assertions and rhetorical games. I’ll highlight the unethical—not merely dishonest in some cases—statements and elaborate afterwards.

THE PRESIDENT: What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case. (1) It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies. (2)That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation. The record makes it clear. (3)

And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for. (4)

And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. (5)And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do. (6)

But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again: If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates. (7)It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.

So it’s a bad idea. (8)It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation. (9)

What’s more, the thing is working. (10)I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass. (11)You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance. The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance. It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance. (12)The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, (13)and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.

The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost. Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years. (14)None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.(15)

And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation. (16)And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision. (17)

Wow, that’s even worse that I thought. Have there been more dishonest, deceptive, irresponsible statements by a President of the United States? Maybe. I don’t see how there could have been one that was much worse, though.

I’ll try to be brief, or else this will be a book. The numbers correspond to the bolded sections above… Continue reading