Ethics Warm-Up, Memorial Day, 5/28/18: Things That Don’t Mix

1. Let’s start with some non-traditional casting hypocrisy.

  • Example A: In “The Gentleman Caller,” an Off-Broadway drama by Phillip Dawkins, an imagined romantic interlude between famously gay Fifties playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge has been cast with a Hispanic, and Hispanic-looking, actor as the very un-Hispanic Williams, and an Asian-American actor as the quite Caucasian Inge. This is self-indulgent grandstanding by the director that doesn’t serve the play—that’s the director’s duty, to serve the play—and the playwright was a fool to allow it. If the drama was just about two gay playwrights, it wouldn’t matter who was cast to portray them, or what the actors looked like. The identity of the writers is important to this  drama, however. You don’t cast a short, bald man as Abraham Lincoln, and you don’t cast a fat, flat-chested woman as Marilyn Monroe unless you are actively trying to sabotage the play. The New York Times critic didn’t have the integrity to point out the reverse-whitewashing casting-–mustn’t criticize fellow social justice warriors, you know!—but the stunt is both incompetent and discriminatory.

If a director cast an Irish-American and an Italian-American as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a similar play, he would be excoriated, and rightly so.

  • Example B. Jim Parsons, best known as aging nerd Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory” and now starring on Broadway in the ensemble revival of “The Boys in the Band,” told the New York Times in an interview that the producer insisted that everyone in the cast be gay. Nice. Gay actors have been insisting forever that their sexuality was no bar to their playing straight characters—this is true, if they are any good as actors—but apparently reverse discrimination is fine.  It’s not fine. It’s bigotry.

When my late, lamented theater company revived that play almost 20 years ago, the director, John Moran, himself gay, insisted that the sexual orientation of the actors who auditioned would play no part in his casting decisions, and it did not. I think most of the all-male cast was not gay, but all of them were (and are) excellent.

One of my favorite Clarence Darrow quotes is, “I’m for the underdog. He needs friends a damn sight more than the other fellow. The best fun in life is to fight for the underdog…If the underdog got on top he would probably be just as rotten as the upper dog, but in the meantime I am for him.”

Things that don’t mix: Anti-discrimination rhetoric and discrimination

2. Another “good illegal immigrant” story. Guatemalan woman Gomez Gonzalez was shot to death in a border incident as she tried to enter the U.S. illegally. The episode is under investigation, and the facts are murky: the border patrol claims that she was in a crowd of people trying to cross the border illegally that became threatening and violent.  Here is how CNN begins its account of the controversy:

“Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed her.”

No bias there! It is absolutely irrelevant to the legal and ethical issues here why Gonzalez was entering the country illegally. She did not deserve to be shot under any circumstances, and she was no more justified in violating our immigration laws whether her objective was to find a “better future” or to open a meth lab. The news media insists on sentimentalizing what is a black and white issue of sovereignty, law-breaking and enforcement, with the intent of confusing the public and demonizing opponents of illegal immigration.

Things that don’t mix: Lawbreaking and status as a virtuous martyr

Continue reading

Fairness To Incompetent Lawyers?

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a good law  suit on her cognitive problems..

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a valid law suit on her cognitive problems…

Why this story didn’t make my head explode, thus rating the KABOOM! label, is a mystery. My theory is that the truly idiotic and ignorant exclamations on Facebook by my usually rational friends about guns in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack have gradually strengthened my skull’s tolerance to internal pressure.

Once again, I have encountered a news story that required me to check and see if it was a hoax.

Tamara Wyche is a 2013 Harvard Law School graduate who is suing the New York State Board of Law Examiners. She claims she twice failed the bar exam because it refused to provide the same kind of testing accommodations that the law school did for her in her exams there, in recognition of her various cognitive problems. The fact that she flunked while being forced to take the exam under the same rules as everyone else resulted in the large Boston law firm Ropes & Gray terminating her employment. You can read her complaint here.

I confess that I didn’t read all of it: I didn’t want to press my luck with the old cranium.

The 29-year-old Wyche says she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a first-year law student at Harvard, and also  suffered several head injuries (?) that resulted in permanent memory problems and cognitive issues, requiring her to take several leaves of absence from her studies. She finally earned her law degree in 2013 thanks to Harvard granting her several doctor-recommended accommodations, including 50% extra time on tests, a separate testing room, and extra break time. She also was exempt from being called on in class, because of a propensity for anxiety and panic attacks.

Allow me to cut to the chase for a second, again in the interest of my dangerously bubbling brains, and perhaps yours. Continue reading

Jury Rejects Damages Suit By Jefferson School Of Law Grad Who Claims She Was Defrauded. Good.

alaburda

A jury this week rejected a law suit by  Anna Alaburda (above), a 2008 graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. seeking  damages on the grounds that the San Diego institution misled her by fraudulently enhancing  job-placement data concerning its alumni. The case had been hailed by supporters of the alleged “Lawscam” conspiracy theory that holds that students across the country have been gulled by promises of riches, firm partnerships and career success into paying for degree that only brought them debt and disappointment. Similar suits had been dismissed or abandoned, and this was supposed to be the lawsuit that broke the dam.

Alaburda’s sad tale was that she has been unable to find full-time work as a lawyer even though she graduated near the top of her class and she still has to pay $170,000 in educational debt. She sought $125,000 in damages: $92,000 in lost income and $32,000 for tuition and fees.  The San Diego Superior Court jury voted 9-3 to reject her fraud claim, however. A single fact in evidence explains why all by itself: she turned down a perfectly good career-starting offer (paying $60,000 a year) from a firm shortly after graduation, apparently on the grounds that she felt the firm was too hard on mortgage delinquents.  Well, the school didn’t promise nice legal jobs: that was her decision, her mistake, and her misfortune. The rejection of the kind of  job offer many young lawyers were desperate for  broke any chain of causality between the alleged fraud and her alleged damages. I’d like to know where Alaburda’s lawyer went to law school and learned that this pathetic case was a viable suit. Maybe that lawyer should sue for educational malpractice. Continue reading

University of California at Berkeley Law’s “Critical Mass” Policy: Segregating Classes In Order To Integrate Them

OK, that's enough of you in THIS section...

OK, that’s enough of you in THIS section…

This is an example of how diversity and affirmative action ideology brings devotees to madness.

In an effort to create a more positive experience for underrepresented-minority students,

The University of California Berkeley School of Law has instituted what it calls  a new “critical mass” policy. As in many law schools, first year students are divided into smaller sections, or “mods,” in which first-year law students take their classes. This year, the administration juggled the composition of the mods to have  more underrepresented-minority students in all but one, in order to create a “critical mass.” To reach critical mass in the other mods,  one mod had to be stripped all of black students. Berkeley Law Dean Sujit Choudhry sent an email to the law school community explaining that the policy is intended to create a more positive experience for underrepresented minorities by grouping them together to create that critical mass.

In setting political districts, this technique is called gerrymandering, and is widely considered racist. Removing all the black students from one section and placing them all in another, super-comfy, all-black section would be called apartheid. Yet this ultra-liberal university has convinced itself that manipulating class composition by race is a benign policy.

Wow.

What else have they convinced themselves of? Let’s see: Continue reading

Misleading Legal Website Headline Of The Millenium: “Above The Law”

Here is the headline:

Wait---didn't I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

Wait—didn’t I just hear the President say that the economic recovery was going just great? Someone tell Danielle, quick!

“Graduate Of Elite Law School Forced To Live Off Welfare Due To Terrible State Of Job Market”

The law school is my alma mater, Georgetown Law Center; the student is a 2010 grad who subsequently passed the bar, Danielle Owens. The author of the overwrought article in Above the Law is Staci Zaretsky. Her tone made my mind flash back to “Queen for a Day.”

I don’t particularly want to poke the Lawscam hornet’s nest again, because I don’t especially enjoy having giant photos of my head placed on-line accompanied by obscenities, and I know a lot of bitter out of work lawyers with shaky interpersonal skills, huge debts, a computer and time on their hands have nothing better to do but to blame me and anyone else they can find for their plight (and yes, if I see a couple of them posting a photo like this on Facebook with the caption, “Hello, Ethics Alarms!” I am calling the police.). Nonetheless, I can’t let this pass without noting that the headline is dishonest, and Zaretsky’s commentary on Owens’ problems is exaggerated to the point of hysteria. Continue reading

A Puzzlement! Non-Lawyers Desperately Need A Legal Education, And Unemployed Lawyers Think Theirs Is Worthless

 

Quick, get a non-lawyer to pay you to teach him about the law, then you will have  rent money, and he'll be unemployable!

Quick, get a non-lawyer to pay you to teach him about the law, then you will have rent money, and he’ll be unemployable!

From the Fordham Law Review comes an article making an important point about American life: it is so intertwined with laws, regulations and procedures that citizens are overwhelmed, and at risk of serious adverse consequences. This provides a function for lawyers, indeed an essential one: allowing citizens of a democracy to be protected and served by laws rather than victimized by them. That is a function lawyers often serve, however, after legal ignorance has raised the specter of harm. From the abstract of Bridget Dunlap’s “Anyone Can Think Like a Lawyer,” which argues for “legal empowerment” for non-lawyers, and the duty of  lawyers to provide it: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Belmont Law School

Gonzalez

Belmont Law School, in Tennessee, has appointed former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez as its new dean.

Unbelievable.

Here is law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s reaction, in part. I concur completely, and cannot improve on it:

“Gonzales is widely blamed for politicizing the Justice Department, destroying its credibility, appointing substandard officials, and turning a blind eye to egregious violations like the torture and surveillance programs. …For many, this appointment looks like a provisional law school accepting an equally provisional lawyer as dean. Gonzales will not help the law school’s reputation. The school defines itself as “Belmont University is a student-centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.” Gonzales has declared that he is committed “to make Belmont the greatest law school that it can be.” Given the fact that Gonzales took a department with a stellar reputation and devastated both its professionalism and reputation, that statement is rather chilling.”

If that weren’t enough, the appointment also means that there is now a precedent for appointing Eric Holder as a law school dean some day.

 

Ethics Hero: “Ludo,” Under-Employed Law Grad Blogger

True Grit - Reminds me of me

As Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) says of plucky Maddy Ross (Kim Darby) in the original, and best, film version of “True Grit,” Ludo “reminds me of me.”

Naturally, I admire him.

Ludo is, in his own words, ” a recent law school graduate and aspiring writer from Southern California. He is currently overeducated and underemployed, working two jobs and keeping sane only by writing down the stories of the crazy stuff happening to him.  He is currently working on his first book, a collection of stories from his days driving a taxi in Orange County….” He is beginning to get some publicity thanks to his blog, Law Grad Working Retail, which provides sometimes hilarious accounts of his current existence as an over-educated, presumed automatic admittee to America’s powerful and elite presumably thrust into life the way most of America lives it.

Do not lump Ludo with “Nando” and the other bitter, unemployed or under-employed recent law grads who have had their ire aroused by my observations about them on Ethics Alarms   (also here). He is doing exactly what he should be doing, using his unique talents to open up new opportunities while presenting himself to the world of law and elsewhere as a likely asset. As he writes in a recent post rebutting criticism of his blog… Continue reading

NYU Law Karaoke E-Shaming Ethics Verdict: Approved

Horrible music

Above the Law has posted an e-mail sent to the NYU law school community to reprimand and shame a law student’s dorm neighbors who kept the student awake into the wee hours on a week night, singing karaoke. Most e-shaming is excessive, vindictive and unfair, but I think this is an example of the best of the breed:

Date: Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 4:20 AM
    Subject: An Open Letter to the Occupants of Mercer #[redacted]
    To: Law School Exchange Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: An Angry Young Man at Yale Law School

flame faceA third year law student decided it was appropriate to send an obscene, ranting letter to the entire student body of Yale Law School announcing that he hated “like 90%” of them, and also, in his words (after announcing that he is going to be a writer):

“…fuck you guys, you judgmental, uninformed pricks, patting yourselves on the back on top of your goddamn moral high horses. I realize I am killing my future political career. GOOD. If you’ve read The Republic, you know exactly what my opinion of politicians are. I realize I am burning bridges. EXCELLENT. If I succeed in my passions, I want to make damn sure it is without the help of any of you phony-ass shitdicks. I’ve ALREADY gotten compliments about how inspirational I am, and I haven’t even fucking started yet. That’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever received in my life. It’ll probably take you guys 10-20 years to get that even once, so good luck and keep up the good work!”

His name was included on his post, just to make certain that it keeps him from finding gainful employment with any potential supervisor who doesn’t have a death wish.

A few observations: Continue reading