“Welcome July, You Can’t Possibly Be A Bad As June” Ethics Warm-Up (Or Can You?)

Let’s try to get this month off to an ethical start….

1. Well, this sure won’t do it…Today’s Spineless Administrator Award goes to… Along with other university leaders, he  pressured Stephen Hsu to resign from his position as vice president of research and innovation after the school’s Graduate Employees Union , which represents teaching and research assistants, examined Hsu’s blog posts and interviews in search of damaging statements that could justify his “cancelling.”  Hsu had, after all, cited with favor a study that found police are no more likely to shoot African-Americans than anyone else. “We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot,” concluded the Michigan State-based research.

It is not the only study that reached this conclusion, but as you have no doubt noticed, for now at least,  Facts Don’t Matter.

The graduate union maintains that administrators should not share research that runs counter to public statements by the university, “It is the union’s position that an administrator sharing such views is in opposition to MSU’s statements released supporting the protests and their root cause and aim.”

Hsu stepped down from his vice president role, but will stay on as a physics professor. The union had circulated a petition against Hsu and an open letter signed by more than 500 faculty and staff at Michigan State argued that Hsu supports the idea that intelligence is linked to genetics. A counter-petition in support of Hsu has had more than 1,000 signers, including many fellow professors from across the country, stating in part,

“To remove Hsu for holding controversial views, or for inquiring about controversial topics, or for simply talking to controversial personalities … would also set a dangerous precedent, inconsistent with the fundamental principles of modern enlightened higher education.”

On his personal website, Hsu rejected the claim of “scientific racism,” stating  that  he believes “that basic human rights and human dignity derive from our shared humanity, not from uniformity in ability or genetic makeup.”

President Stanley defended his decision to pressure Hsu to resign in a statement on June 19:

“I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward. The exchange of ideas is essential to higher education, and I fully support our faculty and their academic freedom to address the most difficult and controversial issues.”But when senior administrators at MSU choose to speak out on any issue, they are viewed as speaking for the university as a whole. Their statements should not leave any room for doubt about their, or our, commitment to the success of faculty, staff and students.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2020: Dogs, Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, D.C., Jimmy Kimmel, Threatening Deplorables And Restricting Rights

Well, dogs are good, anyway…

1. Stop making  dogs defend Mike Bloomberg!…Is there anything too trivial that people won’t use to attack politicians? A CBS News video began circulating online yesterday afternoon showing Michael Bloomberg shaking hands with a man in Burlington, Vermont, then taking his dog’s upper jaw  in his hand and “shaking” the dog’s  snout  He then scratched the dog’s ears. The social media mob called him a dog abuser.

Morons. That’s a move that most dogs enjoy, as well as someone grasping their whole muzzle. It shows Bloomberg is comfortable with and knowledgeable about dogs. I used to do both moves with our 165 pound English Mastiff, and our Jack Russells.

2.  I know this is of interest to almost nobody who isn’t a lawyer, but trust me, it’s a big deal. The District of Columbia has long been the only U.S. jurisdiction that allows law firms to have non-lawyer partners, a structure prevented everywhere else by the general prohibition on lawyers sharing their fees with non-lawyers. When D.C. adopted its revolutionary approach, it assumed that the states would soon follow, with the American Bar Association’s assent. Because that hasn’t happened, a state-licensed lawyer with a D.C. license participating in a legal firm in D.C. could technically be found to  be violating that state’s ethics rules , though the District has negotiated a truce in that potential controversy.

Meanwhile, those special law firms with non-lawyer members are proliferating like legal rabbits. Now  a Jan. 23 press release tells the world that the District of Columbia Bar is taking comments regarding proposed changes to its ethics rules that could allow external ownership of law firms, as well as blended businesses in which lawyers and non-lawyers provide both legal and nonlegal services, like accounting. Or massages–who knows? Right now, law firms by definition can only practice law.

Perhaps even more significantly, California, Utah and Arizona are also studying changes that would relax ethics rules barring non-lawyers from holding a financial interest in law firms. Continue reading

Is The DLA Piper Sexual Harassment Case The Legal Community’s Harvey Weinstein Scandal That I’ve Been Predicting? Sure Looks like It…

For almost two years, I’ve been telling my ethics training attendees at bar associations and law firms that their profession has a serious sexual harassment problem, that there are many Harvey Weinstein, Esq,s out there, and the arrival of a major big law firm scandal or ten is inevitable.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the emerging sexual harassment controversy at DLA Piper,  the largest law firm in the world. Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at  Piper, alleged that Louis Lehot, a notable “rainmaking” partner of long-standing who  pursued her,  groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances. I wrote in part,

The kind of harassment she alleges is not the kind of behavior that is a secret, whether it occurs in a law firm in Hollywood, on a morning news show, on a TV production set or in an opera company, just to name some familiar locales. She says that the partner who recruited her had groped or kissed her on four occasions, and through her attorney’s supplemental filing with the EEOC, that the partner “regularly throws temper tantrums in and out of the office,” and no one at the law firm has reined him in.

There is now more information regarding this story. None of it proves that Lehot was a sexual harasser taking advantage of his power in the law firm to intimidate and abuse women for his own enjoyment, or that DLA Piper’s management  enabled him by applying the King’s Pass, concomitantly creating a toxic culture at the firm, so everything still has to be followed by the magic qualifier, “alleged.” Still, the signs are ominous: Continue reading

Never Mind, Ms. Guerrero: Hillary Clinton Says You Should Just “Get Over It”

Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at mega-law firm DLA Piper, has alleged that a rainmaking partner who recruited her to the firm pursued and groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances.

“I experienced such horrific conduct at the hands of a senior male partner and deserve to openly litigate my claims,” she wrote in a letter. The problem is that she is bound by her agreement with the firm to submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

A “rainmaker,” eh? That rang a bell…YES! Here’s a post, “Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers,” I wrote last year about the typical attitudes on major law firms when protecting female staff against sexually abusive partners who make a lot of money for the other lawyers. I wrote in part, in revulsion over an ABA Journal article about how a sensible firm with a harassing but lucrative partner had to “balance’ considerations…

[T]he consultant begins quoting another ethics-lite law firm consultant. Apparently they are all like this. He says that…

“…most firms tolerate rainmakers’ abusive behavior unless it threatens something essential in the firm’s culture. Peters says firms must draw a line when the “fabric of the firm” is at risk. “The firm must win. No one, not even a rainmaker, can be allowed to destroy the fabric of the firm.”

That’s the standard? Destroying the firm? I think what this Authentic Frontier Gibberish means is that when a rainmaker does so much internal damage to the organization that even all the money he or she brings in won’t make up for it, that abusive rainmaker has to go. Talk about a low bar! “We’ll let you get away with just about anything since you make us so much money, but just don’t destroy the firm.”

It sound like DLA Piper’s management read the ABA Journal’s “How to justify keeping harassers around when they make you a lot of money” guide. Guerrero says she reported the situation to Sang Kim, one of the leaders of DLA’s Northern California offices. He said that it sounded like a he-said, she-said situation, and she should “talk it out” with four senior partners, including the partner she accused. That’s a common dodge. Continue reading

The Big Law Firm’s New Partners

In early December of last year, Paul, Weiss, one of the country’s largest and richest firms, announced its new partners: twelve young white lawyers, and one similarly hued woman.

Being that group identification is everything to certain well-placed people today, the announcement became an instant “public relations nightmare,” according to many media accounts. Sensitive to being sufficiently “woke,” many large companies had their  general counsels, sign an open letter  calling on law firms firms  “to reflect the diversity of the legal community” or they would send their business elsewhere.

What is the assumption underlying that letter? Is it that whites were chosen over better qualified minority lawyers as an act of bigotry and racism? Noooo, nobody’s suggesting that. Are the signatories to the letter really saying that less qualified lawyers of color should be advanced rather than these lawyers? It can’t be that, can it? I would say that a law firm that does not make every effort to have the very best lawyers available for the benefit of the clients is treading close to unethical behavior. A firm can’t prioritize diversity, whatever than means, over its own abilities to represent clients.

I nearly dropped Above the Law, but the reliably knee-jerk left and ethically obtuse online rag is great for these stories, and didn’t disappoint this time. Joe Patrice, the editor, wrote, Continue reading

Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers

Are you also an asshole? Because if you’re enough of a rainmaker, you can be as big an asshole as you want!!!!

Wow. You don’t get much more cynical than this.

Here’ s Karen Kaplowitz, the founder of The New Ellis Group, and a business development strategist and coach for over 20 years, essentially denying the existence of ethics and integrity in law firms as a business necessity.  In a piece on the ABA Journal titled Abuse of power within law firms: The rainmaker dilemma, she begins,

Despite their obvious economic value to their organizations, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein were quickly sacked. Law firms by contrast have often tolerated bad actors who are major rainmakers. Can law firms tolerate abusive rainmakers in the current business climate? Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?

Can they tolerate abusive rainmakers, in this or any other business climate? Sure they can. Should they? Absolutely not. “Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?” What? Does this question have to be asked?

Kaplowitz goes on..
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Gender Bias And Legal Careers

Studies show that although women have been entering the law in equal numbers to men for more than a decade, they make up just 23 percent of partners and 19 percent of equity partners. Why do so many women  leave the legal profession at what should be the height of their careers? Last month, more than 160 lawyers gathered at Harvard Law School in November for the ABA National Summit on Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law to identify answers and plot a course to change the trends.

Sharon Rowen, a lawyer from Atlanta,  said her research showed three reasons women leave the practice of law: work/life balance, unconscious bias, and the pay gap. I wish I could have attended the discussion. I hope someone pointed out that seeking work/life balance is the major reason for the pay gap, and that it is not unreasonable to view that as a trade-off that is both fair and reasonable.  Rowan’s list also leaves off conscious bias that pervades society and clients regarding female lawyers, as well as law firm partners.

Iris Bohnet, professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, said some women suffer from “success fatigue,” and leave “because of a work culture that forces them to minimize important parts of their lives.” They ask themselves, “Can I bring my whole self to work?” and “Is this a place where I can thrive?” What she is saying is that a lot of women don’t find the law enjoyable, and that its stresses, patterns and requirements are more accommodating to men than women. In other words, law isn’t fun for a lot of women, while men, because of the nature of males, are more tolerant of it than women tend to be. I wonder if any panelist had the guts to come right out and say that? I doubt it. I bet most of them would deny it, because it’s politically incorrect to admit any gender differences, unless they involve female superiority.
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KABOOM! Roy Moore’s Lawyer Just Made My Head Explode. Or As He Would Say, Just Made My Head Exploded

I hate early morning head explosions. Among other reasons, those bits of skull and brain ruin the taste of my coffee.

No, I don’t blame Trent Garman for representing a vile creepazoid like Roy Moore. Creepazoids have rights too, and should have access to trustworthy and competent counsel. My problem with Garman arises from those last four words. Lawyers as untrustworthy and incompetent as Garman, in my opinion (don’t sue me, Trent, it’s just my opinion that you’re an idiot; I can’t prove it, but I do think you did), shouldn’t be representing clients. Garman, in truth, needs to go back to the sixth grade.

Here is the letter Garman authored on Moore’s behalf. I’ll follow it with the stuff that blew my head; you don’t have to read the whole thing unless you’re into inflicting pain on yourself, like that albino monk in “The Da Vinci Code.”

If you do read the letter, you will note that Attorney Garman never learned that the possessive “its” has no apostrophe, and that he writes English like it is a second, and perhaps third, language. Here are the best, as in worst, examples of his professional writing:

 Your client’s organization has made and/or supported defaming statements. This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients. We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.

The second statement  actually says “This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients.” Diagram that for me. That head-scratcher is followed by “We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.”This isn’t even the worst example of Authentic Frontier Gibberish in the letter. This is:

Thus, do you know this clearly, yet significant difference which your client’s publication(s) have failed to distinguish. And the legal requirement that your client retract the stories, to include the details which clearly are false.

I can’t even decide what to bold on that one.

Disturbingly, we learn in Trent’s biography that he earned a Masters in Theology from Regent University and  translated two books of the Bible from Greek.  I can just imagine what that translation was like.

I’m not nit-picking a blog comment or a hasty tweet. Roy Moore is fighting for his professional life and reputation, and this is the best legal representation he can find? That letter is a professional product. Garrman is obligated to be competent and diligent, not to send the message far and wide that the former judge thinks that this is persuasive logic and deft prose. Do they not proofread at Garman & Liddon? Do they know what proof-reading is? Do they know what syntax, punctuation and grammar are? Coherence? Professionalism?

Shame on the Troy University and Birmingham School of Law for graduating this careless, inarticulate boob. Heck, no high school should graduate someone who can’t write a letter better than that. Shame on his high school too. Shame on his the Alabama Bar for giving him a license.(I would use words other than “shame,” just to reliev the monotony , but as I’m sure you understand, my vocabulary is affected when my brains are on the ceiling…)

The legal field’s dirty little secret is that lawyers who can’t write or articulate a coherent argument are not as rare as they should be, and they should be extinct.  Nonetheless they get fees from innocent clients who assume that these hacks are smart and skilled because they call themselves lawyers.

But Roy Moore called himself a judge, didn’t he?

Hmmmm…

Maybe this is what George Will calls “condign justice.”

______________________

Pointer: Red Ipsa Loquitur

 

KABOOM! A Head-Explodingly Unethical Lawyer!

I have never heard of a lawyer behaving this unethically in such a reckless and transparent manner. I have never heard of anything close to this.

Michael Potere, 32, a recently fired former associate at the large law firm Dentons was arrested last week on charges of trying to extort $210,000 and a valuable artwork from the firm, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

According to his profile on LinkedIn, Potere had a Fulbright Scholarship,  a master’s degree in public policy and administration from the London School of Economics., and had been an associate at renowned law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Something was amiss, however, as Dentons let him go on June 1. Potere did not take this blow well. He reacted by telling partners that he had taken potentially  embarrassing sensitive information from the firm and would leak it all to the legal gossip site “Above the Law” unless he was paid $210,000 and given  a valuable  piece of artwork owned by the firm.

Potere was able to steal the confidential information because a partner gave him  access to his email login information while they were working on a case in 2015, so the associate could access documents related to discovery requests in the case. After he learned that he was being fired, Potere used that login to search through the partner’s emails and download the sensitive documents, including emails between partners, quarterly financial reports, client lists, confidential reviews of associate attorneys, lists of equity partner candidates, documents describing billing rates, details of recruitment efforts, and memos describing how partners should approach clients with outstanding balances” according to the FBI. Continue reading

The 8th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2016, Part 2

pope-trump

Part II of the Worst continues with education horrors, legal outrages, the Lie of the Year, and more.

Above? That’s obviously the…

Fake News of the Year.

Now the rest..it doesn’t get any better.

Biggest KABOOM! 

exploding-head

The YMCA Slavery Recreation.  You know, even looking through this category was dangerous. I had forgotten about all these stories, which, by definition, were all horrible. This one, from February, however, had to be the winner. The YMCA Storer Camps in Jackson, Michigan included an “educational” activity called “Underground Railroad” in which black children were asked to play runaway slaves, as some teachers and camp instructors acted as slave masters, chasing them down using real horses. Once captured, the children were “auctioned off.” The principal of the school that subjected its pre-teen students to the slavery simulations rather than the other better known YMCA camp activities like nature hikes, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and sitting around campfires responded that he didn’t expect the uproar, since no student had ever complained before.

Most Unethical High School Discipline

Red Mountain High School  in Mesa, Arizona. On a dare from a friend, high school football player Hunter Osborn briefly flashed his naughty bits in the team photo. Nobody noticed, including the yearbook’s faculty advisor, so the photo was published in the school yearbook.  Months later, the gag was discovered. Even though the photo was so small that offending nudity was virtually invisible to the naked eye, the school had Osborn was arrested and charged with 69 counts of indecent exposure. The charges were dropped because none of the 69 “victims” pressed charges.

Most Unethical No-Tolerance Action

hazel-tweet

John Glenn High School in Suburban Detroit.  The offense: “Inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom.” The conduct: Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take photos of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

She was suspended, but eventually social media and the local news vindicated her. The water was polluted, and the school district admitted that Hazel was punished for doing the right thing.

Most Unethical School Teacher

(Excluding Rapists)

A Tie! 

1. Malik Leigh, a teacher in Palm Beach Lakes High School’s pre-law academy a kindergarten teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington

Leigh’s specialty is indoctrination. Aming his exam questions last year…

“If Donald Trump becomes president of the United states, we are:

A.) Screwed

B.) Screwed

C.) Screwed

D.) Screwed behind a really YUGE wall that Mexico pays for.”

and…

“When performing an opening statement, it is best to:

A. Wink at the Judge

B. find the hottest person on the Jury and focus your words on them

C. Speak to them as if they are cordial friends.

D. Treat them like the MORONS they are.”

He was suspended.

Good.

2. “Jill Watson.” You can’t be a more unethical teacher than when you’re not a teacher at all. Or human.

Naked Teacher of the Year

Leigh Anne Arthur, In a completely warped and unfair application of the Naked Teacher Principle, school district officials in Union County demanded and received the resignation of the engineering teacher  after a student stole her phone, examined its contents and found a semi-nude selfie  intended for her husband’s enjoyment only.The student, who  warned her that “something bad was coming,” sent the images to other students through text messages and social media Arthur sued the school board for wrongful termination, but recently dropped the suit.  The student was charged with a computer crime and voyeurism. The Naked Teacher Principle holds that

A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The first formulation of the NTP can be found here.

This obviously does not apply to Arthur. Ironically it would apply to the incoming First Lady if she were a teacher, and arguably applies still, since the First Lady is a role model.

Double Standard Of The Year

pelosi-tweet

Progressives and Democrats, who performed an immediate U-turn as soon Donald Trump won the election, and after having expressing outrage and indignation when Trump had suggested, about a month earlier, that he might not “accept the results of the election,” which he had claimed was “rigged,” immediately challenged the results of the election, and claimed it was rigged.

And they are still doing it today.

 Lie of the Year

and

Jumbo of the Year

Jumbo film Continue reading