Perhaps the saddest aspect of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck and the resulting mass effort to bring down Donald Trump was the corruption of virtually all of our society’s professions, and the vast majority of their members. Educators, psychiatrists, teachers, judges— journalists, of course, though they were already pretty far gone; broadcasters, of course. Entertainment professionals and performers, heaven knows (That’s the Dixie Chicks and their clever and subtle political commentary above.) In addition to theater professionals, two more of my professions have disgraced themselves: lawyers and ethicists. The listserv of a legal ethics organization I belong to was virtually cackling with joy over Rudy Giuliani’s partisan and dangerous interim suspension in New York, while the same group has been notably unenthusiastic about criticizing out-of court hyperbole by anti-Trump lawyers like the recently sentenced Michael Avenatti. (I may have missed some more balanced attention because I dropped out of the group for about 18 months in disgust over its bias.) Here is a tweet by a conservative attorney that was just offered to the group for comment on whether it raised issues of professional misconduct:
Charles Green helpfully sent me the link to today’s New York Times piece documenting how…
“the imbalance in legal firepower in the same-sex marriage cases resulted from a conviction among many lawyers that opposition to such unions is bigotry akin to racism. But there were economic calculations, too. Law firms that defend traditional marriage may lose clients and find themselves at a disadvantage in hiring new lawyers.”
“Am I right that something’s quite amiss here?” he asks. Indeed he is, and I’ve touched on it before.
There are several factors at work here, but the result is deplorable, and indictment of the corrupt values of the legal profession. One of the factors is bias, and it is a bias that the lawyers themselves are either unaware of, or are unwilling to avoid its effects as their professional codes of ethics require.
The majority of high-powered lawyers hail from urban centers where liberal culture flourishes among the wealthy, the powerful and the influential. These are cosmopolitan lawyers, sophisticated and urbane, who have gay colleagues, gay friends and gay children. They are less likely to be religious, and more likely to have contempt for those who are. Combine with them the legal academics who drive consensus on legal ethics matters—like most academics, they have marinated in the extreme leftist attitudes of U.S. academia—and it becomes clear why, as Michael W. McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge who teaches law at Stanford, tells the Times, “The level of sheer desire to crush dissent is pretty unprecedented.”
I noticed this in 2011, when the legal ethicists I follow, know and debate with decreed virtually en masse that a judge who was not only gay himself but in a long term domestic relationship with his partner had no ethical obligation to recuse himself before he issued the decision on the constitutionality of California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8. Nor did they feel he was ethically obligated to disclose his situation before ruling. I wrote: Continue reading
The motion to vacate Judge Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 has been filed, you can read it here. Since the original post, I have detected some cracks in the formerly near-united front of legal ethicists and journalists deriding Walker’s critics. Some of them are finally, grudgingly, admitting that the Judge might not have handled his potential conflict so well after all, and that the motion is not a frivolous, anti-gay outrage as they originally labelled it. The most rickety of the rationalizations put forth on Walker’s behalf, advanced by some his most respected defenders, is that he had no obligation to reveal his own sexual orientation by disclosing his domestic arrangement because of its intimate and private nature. Yet the judge voluntarily disclosed it after his decision was in the books, raising a rebuttable presumption that his original silence was to avoid suggestions of conflict, not out of a desire for privacy.
First time commenter Jada adds her Comment of the Day to the discussion: Continue reading
"Oh, all right...as long as we like the decision."
Thanks to the Judge Walker controversy, now have proof that the best legal ethicists in the nation are human. I suppose that’s something.
My colleagues in the legal ethics field are arguing—decreeing, really— that Judge Vaughn Walker’s decade-long same-sex relationship didn’t need to be disclosed before he ruled against Proposition 8 (California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban) because, they say, it created no reasonable doubts about his impartiality. Coincidentally, they also really, really like his decision. But then, so do I. Continue reading