Tag Archives: lawyers

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/26/17

Good Morning!

(My Dad was from Kentucky. He couldn’t stand Tom T. Hall…or Mitch McConnell)

1. I have been working on a legal ethics seminar for lawyers who represent seniors (I was told that the politically correct term among the groups was “older clients.” Older than what?) It is one of those areas of the law in which the usual ethics rules don’t work very well, or sometimes not at all. This anomaly requires a lawyer practicing in the field to be ready to embrace the Ethics Incompleteness Principle: to violate the letter of the professional ethics rules in the best interests of the client. For example, what does a lawyer do whose aging client lives with a son or daughter, and the lawyers sees signs of elder abuse? When the lawyer asks the client, he makes various excuses for his caretakers, and finally says that while he has been abused, it’s not serious and will only get worse if the lawyer says or does anything in response to it. Now what? The fact of the abuse, under the usual construction of the rules, is a confidence controlled by the client.

The emerging consensus is that the lawyer can ethically use the exception to confidentiality that allows an attorney to reveal a client confidence to prevent death or serious bodily injury to a “third party,” the client becoming “the third party” for his own protection.

2. A federal lawsuit was filed last week alleging that a Tennessee judge and sheriff violated inmates’ constitutional rights by instituting a program offering reduced jail time for criminals who agree to undergo vasectomies or get contraceptive implants. The suit claims the White County program amounted to “eugenics with a twist.” I don’t think it’s much of a twist; I’d say it’s eugenics, straight up. I’d assume CBS will love it: after all, eliminating criminal types is even better than eradicating Down Syndrome babies. Isn’t it?

3. Lots of people sent me this horrible story, about the cheerleader camp at a Denver area high school where young girls were being forced to do splits (it hurts me even thinking about doing splits) , with the camp’s instructor shown in a leaked video pushing down on the shoulders of a 13-year-old as she screamed for him to stop.

Boy, there is a lot of child abuse out there.

The Denver Board of Education said in a statement: “As the elected representatives for Denver Public Schools — and as the moms, dads and family members of D.P.S. students ourselves — we are deeply disturbed by the videos of cheer practices at East High School that came to our attention yesterday.”

Gee, it’s good to know that you are all disturbed that children are being tortured at schools that you are supposed to be overseeing.. This must mean you are competently doing your jobs. No, actually it doesn’t

“As the investigation continues,’’ it states, “our focus must be entirely on our students, families and educators.”

The school superintendent also said: “We have sent notification to our athletic directors emphasizing that D.P.S. does not allow the use of ‘forced splits’ or any other activity that puts a student’s physical or mental health at risk, or in which a student is forced to perform an exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop.”

An Ethics Alarms note to that school system: Any athletic directors who have to be reminded that abusing children in their care, and continuing to make them perform painful acts after they have said that they don’t want to, is not something they should be doing shouldn’t be employed in the first place. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

KABOOM! I Thought I Had Seen The Most Ridiculous Theories Of How President Trump Obstructed Justice, But I Was Wrong!

To be clear, the KABOOM! in this case, which is the announcement that something has made my head explode, is not because of the ridiculous theory itself, but because I was wrong to believe that theories coming out of the Trump Deranged Who Were Once Smarter Than This couldn’t get worse.  I thought the theory that it was obstruction of justice for President Trump to fire an employee and subordinate, James Comey, whom not only he clearly had the authority to fire, but that just about everyone in the country in both parties had declared inept, biased, or criminal at one time or another over the past 12 months, and who had clearly committed firing offenses under Trump.

How could anyone of any authority or expertise whatsoever come up with a more idiotic theory than that? I was certain the answer was, “They can’t.” I bet my head on it.

Ah, but the hate of “the resistance” and the professionalism-corroding power of the Anti-Trump Brain Eating Virus is stronger than even I thought. Get this, and hold on to your heads:

In a USA Today story President Trump’s counsel John Dowd—he’s the one who doesn’t use obscenities or look like an axe-murderer—acknowledged that he had engaged in communications with the Special Counsel on behalf of his client, conveying how much the President “appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing.” Dowd said that the President asked him to convey his “appreciation and greetings.”

Ah-HA! Notre Dame professor Jimmy Gurulé, a former U.S. assistant attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, told LawNewz.com that the message from Dowd could be construed as intimidation or an effort to influence the investigation. “‘I’m watching you.’ How else could it be interpreted?” Gurulé said. ‘ Thank you for conducting an investigation into my campaign. Thank you for conducting an investigation into my son and my son-in-law.’”

How else? Gee, I don’t know. I’d interpret it as, “I appreciate what a difficult task you have, and understand that we all have to do our jobs”…

…since THAT’S WHAT WAS SAID. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/25/17

Good Morning!

1. The National Review began its story on this topic thusly:

“California and New York will become the first states to allow illegal immigrants to practice law and be sworn in as lawyers. In so doing, they will grant the privilege of upholding the law and defending the U.S. Constitution to people who have intentionally violated the rules, and who have no right whatsoever to be here.”

This is a fair and objective description. I detest conservative radio talk show host Micheal Savage, who wrote a right wing attack tome called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder” just as I detest that title, and the approach to civil discourse and political disagreements that goes with it. (Ann Coulter preaches the same message, but is funnier when she does it.) However, when I read about things like this, I feel a magnetic pull to the position. In 2013, Governor Brown  signed into law a provision allowing illegal immigrants to be awarded licenses to practice law in the state California. At the same time as he vetoed nother bill passed by his reliably wacko legislature that would have allowed those who would not obey the nation’s immigration laws to be eligible to serve on juries, and thus pass judgment on the alleged crimes of U.S. citizens. Ponder that contrast for a minute, and see if your head explodes. Brown had a convoluted explanation for the seeming contradiction, but what he was doing was obvious: he was pandering to illegals and their supporters. Serving on juries is an obligation of citizenship that citizens find onerous: telling illegals that they didn’t have to meet this obligation while still harvesting citizenship benefits was a welcome decision.

At the time I wrote,

“I am not surprised by this turn of events, just made nauseous by it. I almost closed comments for this post. If I really have to explain to someone why those who have never taken affirmative steps to become citizens in this country should not be allowed to practice its laws after years of being in defiance of its laws, I’m not sure its worth the effort.”

Continue reading

32 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, The Internet, Unethical Tweet

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

84 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, U.S. Society

Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Quotes, Rights, U.S. Society

The Unethical Fine Print Game

I am on record as believing that lawyers who intentionally assist their clients in burying unconscionable, unenforceable or unfair terms in standard contracts, usually in fine print, are unethical, and engaging in a professional violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. I’ve offered several seminar hypotheticals on the topic to make my point, and have never encountered a lawyer who had a good defense for the practice. Usually the best they can come up with is “everybody does it” or “but it’s legal!” Of course, the bar associations are on their side, not mine, because, well, everybody does it. That’s a proverbial can of worms the bar associations don’t have the guts or integrity to open. What else could it be but unethical, however, when a client company says, “Make sure you bury this provision saying that they have no recourse if we cheat them in the fine print!” and the lawyer says, “But that’s unenforceable!” and the client says, “Yeah, but they won’t read it before signing, and when we point out that they did agree to it, maybe it will scare them off,”  and the lawyer shrugs and says, “Whatever you say! It’s your contract”?

WiFi companies are especially egregious in this regard. As an effort to show itself as above the field and avoiding the unethical industry practice, a British WiFi company, Purple, ran  a social science experiment, inserting language in its standard contract that obligated consumers to clean toilets at festivals and clear sewer blockages.  22,000 people signed up anyway. The contract stated–in fine print—that its signatories would be legally required to perform 1000 hours of community service, including, but not limited to, “cleaning toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets” and “manually relieving sewer blockages.”

The gag clause was inserted in the company’s terms and conditions for a period of two weeks, “to illustrate the lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up to when they access free WiFi .” Purple also offered a prize to anyone who actually read the terms and conditions, and found the “community service clause.” Only one person won it. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/14/17

Good morning!

1. It is a matter of constant fascination to me how all of President Trump’s personal lawyers appear to be flaming jerks, whatever their legal skills may be. Here’s an example from this week: Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia conspiracy theory investigation, was contacted by a stranger, a retired public relations professional, who had read ProPublica’s unflattering story on Kasowitz. He sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz used the 30 minutes between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to bombard the man with threats and epithets, writing such dignified  messages as,

“I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch/”

“Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” 

“I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Nice.

This isn’t a legal ethics violation, though it almost certainly would be if Kasowitz were addressing an opposing counsel in such a manner. It’s just generally unethical as outrageous, inexcusable, gratuitous incivility, reflecting poorly on him, his profession and his client. A client who was minimally concerned about ethics would fire him.

2. Speaking of a minimal concern for ethics, Trump’s defense of his son’s dumb but legal meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary included the statement that “most people would have taken that meeting.” Once again, we have evidence that Donald Trump literally doesn’t know what ethics is. Oh, his rationalizations are the same ones the average ethically-retarded citizen uses—this is why he is President. They are still rationalizations. Yes, Mr. President, and most people would accept extra money from an ATM and not tell the bank about it. And most people lie to get out of trouble. And most people do all sorts of unethical things, which doesn’t make them ethical, responsible or appropriate.

He is the President, though, and this is how we will inevitably become a nation of assholes. 

3.  And speaking of assholes, there is Nancy Pelosi. Because a female journalist was blocked from access to the House of Representative by a Sergeant of Arms who properly pointed out that she was wearing a sleeveless dress, always forbidden according to Congress’s dress code, we were suddenly subjected to the false narrative that those mean, sexist Republicans were abusing women again, as well as being typically antediluvian in their ideas about propriety. (Men can’t go sleeveless either, but never mind.) Paul Ryan was the target here, as the Speaker is officially charged with enforcing such rules. The narrative was not really about the dress code, but just part of the over-all “Get Republicans” news media strategy to make the party as unpopular as possible. Yesterday Paul Ryan plausibly said that he wasn’t aware of the rule in question, and was happy to amend it. Then Nancy Pelosi piled on, tweeting, “Glad to see [Speaker Ryan] is updating the dress code for the House Floor. These unwritten rules are in desperate need of updates.”

Pelosi was Speaker for four years, her tenure ending just six years ago. The same rule Ryan is being attacked for was in place during her entire tenure. Why didn’t she fix it herself, dedicated feminist that she is? Her tweet is such obvious hypocrisy that it calls attention to the double standards employed by Democrats, the news media and women. Pelosi could have cheered the change without appearing to duck her own responsibility for their continuation. Instead, she acted as if she was an innocent bystander.

Nancy Pelosi is a major reason the Democratic Party has become a party of assholes. Who but an asshole would tolerate a national leader like this as the face of his or her party in Congress? Are Democrats proud of this woman? Do they endorse her tactics and rhetoric? We have to assume so, don’t we? Continue reading

55 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership