The Breonna Taylor Non-Indictments [Updated]

We’ll see just how much Facts Don’t Matter in the Breonna Taylor fiasco aftermath. I heard shameless race-huckster Ben Crump speaking on TV, and when he started blathering on about 1619, I changed the channel to a re-run of “The Andy Griffith Show.” As a friend says, memorably but grossly, “There is some shit I won’t eat.” The sentiment is apt here.

The Kentucky grand jury did not indict current and former police officers for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, though her name has been prominently linked to that of George Floyd and others during the promotion of protests and rioting in the George Floyd Freakout. As with Floyd, there was no evidence of racism in the death of Taylor, other than the fact that the three cops involved are white and she was black. That’s enough for the presumption or racism to stick, as we have learned in other cases, thus “justifying” Crump’s pronouncements.

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was sleeping in her apartment on March 13 when police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove  and Brett Hankison, operating with a no-knock warrant that was mistakenly processed, burst in. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, thinking that the apartment was being invaded, shot at them, and they returned fire. Taylor was accidentally killed by a bullet from Cosgrove’s gun in the crossfire, and five other bullets struck her as well.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a  press conference after the grand jury’s decision was announced, explaining that because Walker fired first, Cosgrove and Mattingly were “justified in their use of force after having been fired upon.” The result was pre-ordained from the beginning unless prosecutors violated all ethical standards and pushed the jurors to indict the officers for Taylor’s death anyway as a sop to Black Lives Matters and an attempt to stem the violence likely to follow if the officers weren’t sacrificed to the mob.

I, legal experts, and anyone paying attention  doubted that the grand jury would or could return murder indictments on this set of facts. The 12 jurors did return three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree against Officer Hankison for shooting his gun into the apartment next to Taylor’s, but that is unlikely to calm the fury of those who want to riot on general principles, if you can call “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” a principle. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 9/21/2020: The “Waiting To Hear What Democrats Will Threaten Next” Edition.

Does anyone else find it remarkable that Democratic Party leaders aren’t the least concerned with how reasonable Americans might react to them talking like mobsters and thugs? Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi seemed to say that they might impeach the President if he nominates a judge to replace Justice Ginsburg. I suppose it’s comforting that the party is finally being open about the fact that it now regards impeachment as a pure partisan weapon, but how do you you threaten impeachment if a President fulfills his constitutional duties? For that matter, how can Democrats scream that the late Justice’s “dying wish” must be respected when it would require contradicting her statement about final year SCOTUS nominations: “The President is elected for four years, not three. So the powers that he has in year three continues into year four… and that’s how it should be”?

Well, it’s a rhetorical question, of course. Democrats have abandoned any pretense of consistency and integrity in their destructive anti-Trump mania. I thought this arch tweet was on point, but incomplete:

The list is much longer.

1. Love it. Princeton, engaged in BLM suck-up grandstanding, confessed that systemic racism is embedded there, so the Department of Education asked if Princeton doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, as must be the case to continue recieveing federal funding.  The Education Department’s demand for an explanation got full huminahumina treatment in the statement Princeton issued in response. The excuse is that they aren’t at fault for the racism, since “everybody’s been doing it,” and at least Princeton acknowledges the problem.

Weak. Continue reading

Labored Ethics, 9/4/2020: Insanity, Desperation…And Poll Answers!

Happy Labor Day Weekend,

for those of you who don’t run your own business and will be working the whole time, because ethics never rests…

1. I guess it’s nice that Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal have another friend, but…I really don’t care about Jessica Krug, the suddenly “trending” professor and PhD who has, she now says, been pretending to be black her whole professional life, though she is a white, Jewish woman. According to George Washington University, she is an associate professor  and  a historian of politics, ideas, and cultural practices in Africa and the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in West Central Africa and maroon societies in the early modern period and Black transnational cultural studies.”

So either she’s a calculating con artist, like Elizabeth Warren, or she’s a nut. Either way, what she says now can’t be trusted, and beyond a a voyeuristic fascination with lunatics or the sight of someone engaged in extravagant self-flagellation ( “I am a coward. There is no ignorance, no innocence, nothing to claim, nothing to defend. I have moved wrong in every way for years….”), a can’t imagine any sock drawer more worth my time than reading about or thinking about this fraud.

We shall see if the next step is a book (“Fake Black Like Me”), a movie, or a series of interviews on NPR.

Meanwhile, it has been more than 24 hours since her confession was posted, and I assume—but who knows with a cheat or a lunatic?_-she gave her employer a heads up. Whether she did or not, she should have been fired by now. Why hasn’t she been?

2. The desperation continues. As the mainstream media and their political favorites finally admit that President Trump is increasingly likely to win in November, the signs of desperation and panic become palpable. A few days ago the rumor was that the President had three strokes, amazingly without anyone seeming to notice or leak to the news media. Who do they think he is, Grover Cleveland? It was ridiculous, and a Big Lie, but Trump felt he had to deny it (he did a good job, actually, with a funny tweet) , which is what Big Lies are supposed to make you do. He should not have. There will be rumors like this treated by the news media as genuine right up to the election. I predict there will be several that the New York Times runs front page stories about immediately, unlike, for example, the way it treated the still plausible accusation against Joe Biden of sexually assaulting a staffer. Continue reading

Seeing Ethics In September, 9/1/2020…

1. Well, THAT’s an easy question! At St Xavier Catholic Church in NYC over the weekend, the priest asked his flock, : “Do you affirm that white privilege is unfair…will you commit to helping transform our church culture” and embrace “racial justice.”?

The answer, of course, is “‘Bye!” No one should accept partisan and racist talking points from the clergy. This is an abuse of power, trust and position.

I think I’ll watch “Spotlight” again…

2. In case you were wondering, Ethics Alarms will have nothing definitive to say about the Kyle Rittenhouse saga, and won’t until I read a trustworthy account of what really happened. There seems no question that the original mainstream news media narrative that this was a white supremacist gun nut hunting peaceful protesters is the MSM misbehaving again. The backlash characterization of Ritterhouse as a brave citizen protecting local businesses from rioters also seems overly convenient. The video available suggests an element of self-defense, but it seems clear to me that the kid irresponsibly placed himself in a perilous position while provoking members of a less-than-rational mob. In the situation he voluntarily placed himself, Ritterhouse was likely to be killed or kill somebody. He was also violating the law by carrying his weapon when he was underage. Of course, the failure of the Kenosha police and the state to keep minimally endurable order also added to the deadly conditions.

3. Hey, Coup Plan E, good to see you! Where have you been?

The 25th Amendment arguments have  been relatively scarce lately, although Maxine Waters mentioned it a week ago without referencing any disability. She appears to think that the Cabinet can just remove the elected President with a vote. My God, she’s such an idiot.

If the President had three strokes, he sure recovered quickly. And doesn’t it take astounding gall to try this chestnut again now, when the Democrats are running a candidate who could be legitimately removed by the 25th Amendment ten minutes after he took the oath of office? Continue reading

Monday Musical Ethics , 8/31/2020: A Number From Today’s Seminar!

Good afternoon!

We ran out of time and had to dash through our last number on today’s version of Ethics Rock (By the way, Mike Messer really looks like the logo, which was designed before we found him), so I’ll let the legal ethics whizzes here (and everyone else: non-layers often do better on these quizzes than lawyers do—take a shot at the questions…Are you ready? “NJSBA” means “New Jersey State Bar Association,” you stress the “J” to make it scan.

“The Day My Ethics Died”

[A ProEthics legal ethics parody to the melody of “American Pie” by Don McLean]

A long, long, time ago,
I can still remember
Legal practice used to make me smile
And I knew if I could get my shot
I’d win my cases, like as not,
And then I could drink Chivas for a while.

But ethics rulings made me nauseous
I’m no good when over-cautious.
Clients give a cruel look
When they see you check the rule book.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I finally knew my brain was fried…
I took the rules and looked inside,
The day my ethics died.

So, hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Oh, I’m the king of slip and falls
My suits make safer lawns and halls
(At least my wallet tells me so.)

My client, Mick, is lame and sore
Since he hit his head on a banker’s floor
And his injury has left him kinda slow.

Now his father has me change his will
To take out Mick and give him nil;
I know its Dad’s estate—
But doing this to Mick I hate!

Then there’s the day when Mick pulls out his gun
And points to strangers in the sun
He says, “I’d like to shoot them, one by one!”

The day my ethics died.

And I am singing,

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Crying, lying, everything I’m trying
But Mick is nuts, there’s no denying
I do what he says and we’re dead.

This guy hears commands from Outer Space
And that strange expression on his face
Tells me something has pulled loose inside his head.

He’s pushing theories that won’t fly
And making arguments that I
Would never use in court…
Perhaps I should abort!

Or instead, before his fate is sealed
A guardian can make him yield;
I should have found a better field
Before my ethics died.

So now I’m singing,

Hey, hey, Mister VSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Then, surprise! Just as I’m feeling sick
A settlement is offered Mick…
A deal like this won’t come again…
So come on Mick, be prudent, don’t be slow!

Drop the claim and take the dough
I’m sayin’, as your lawyer and your friend!

But Mick says no, it’s not enough
I argue, beg, and then get tough:
“You take it, or I’m through!
I’ll quit unless you do!”

Then as a last resort, I shout out, “Hey!”
“The Space Lords dictate what I say!”
And Mick says, “Really?! Then okay!”
The day my ethics died.

So I was singing

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

When the check arrived for Mick to take
He admitted that his pain was fake,
And I just groaned and turned away.

I tried to learn from CLE
But I fell asleep so rapidly
Though the man there gave me credit anyway.

And in the court the judges screamed
The juries drooled and the clients schemed
But nothing really mattered
My ethics all were shattered.

And the three things that inspired me
Justice,
Love, and a
Giant fee
Just seemed to be a mockery
The day my ethics died.

We started singing…

Hey, hey, NJSBA

Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

[SING ALONG!]

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”

Questions… Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Madness, 8/19/2020: Susan B., Fauxahontas, Utah…And “Gordie”

When I was looking through the 2012 posts yesterday, ultimately stumbling upon the long discourse about Barack Obama’s disastrous Presidency, I was struck by how, even in an election year, so many non-political ethics issues were discussed here. This is something that was already driving me crazy about 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, there is virtually no popular culture news. Legal ethics news is drastically reduced, as are reports from other sectors of society and culture. In this warped environment, politics spreads like kudzu, or killer bees, or snakeheads—you can choose your favorite invasive species or opportunistic organism analogy. I’m trying, I swear, but my over-all impression looking back on 2012 is that writing, and I presume reading, an ethics commentary blog was a lot more fun.

I’m sorry.

1. Today’s rejected Ethics Alarms comment comes from “Gordie,” was opining on the post on Ellen De Generis’s late hit accuser. He wrote,

Ellen was an a$$ to this boy and shes paying for it now. All you lip huggers need to wake TFU and rejoice when you hear truth no matter how unsavory or unpalatable you find it. Be a bully, get bullied. Dont you all see that Karma train pullin up? And with enough hands to slap every butt as it goes on by toot toot

Observations:

  • Welcome to my world. This is why so few new voices are added to the commentariat here.
  • Does anyone know what a “lip-hugger” is?
  • Tells in the comment that let us know the writer can’t tell an ethics from fuzzy slipper: mentioning “karma,” and the statement, “Be a bully, get bullied.”

2. Here is some non-political legal ethics news, and it’s important, if technical.

Before this week, only the District of Columbia, where I am licensed, allows non-lawyers to be partners in law firms. The majority position in the profession is that non-lawyers inevitably have a different alignment of values from the legally trained, and thus are not likely to be as sensitive to duties to clients, like confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Pure “investors” are also banned from buying a share of law firm profits, because they are deemed likely to be governed by financial needs and motives rather than the best interests of clients.

When the D.C. bar decided to break the mold decades ago, everyone assumed that other jurisdictions would follow its lead, and soon doctors, engineers, scholars and accountants, among others, would be joining firms and allowing them to add new services. (Europe and Australia already allow  such “multidisciplinary firms.”) It didn’t happen.

Now, however, the dominoes might be starting to fall.  From the ABA Journal: Continue reading

“The Great Stupid” Chronicles: Dumb Tweet, Unintelligent “Intelligencer”

Richard Spoor, he tells us, is a public interest lawyer with a special interest in land reform, mines and communities and compensation for occupational diseases, and a “militant non-racialist,” whatever that means. His tweet is addled in so many ways:

  • The fate of these two lawyers turned terrorists is no more “sad” than any story of previously law-abiding citizens whose ethics alarms stop working as they knowingly break the law.
  • The fact that they are “young” makes it no more sad than if they were older, like 50. They’re not kids: both are over 30. They cannot claim immaturity or lack of experience. My son nearly ruined his life with a terrible, spur of the moment decision that could have killed him and others, but he was a teenaged male. He was also lucky.  Truly young people like he was wreck their lives with bad decisions every day. That’s sad. Adults doing it is something else.
  • Participating in a riot and throwing a Molotov cocktail is not the act of an “idealistic” person by definition. Breaking the law, engaging in violence, and trying to destroy property for no good reason does not embody “ideals.” They embody the opposite of ideals. If the two lawyers  were really idealistic, this wouldn’t have happened.
  • They didn’t “get wrapped up” in BLM’s racist movement, they joined it. It isn’t something that just happened to them.
  • “Moment of madness” is another version of Rationalization #19, The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!” and “Everybody makes mistakes!” People don’t suddenly throw Molotov cocktails and go “Ooopsie! What was I thinking?” That’s not “a mistake,” it is the culmination of many intentional acts leading up to a serious crime.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 7/25/2020: The Congressional Playpen And Other Embarrassments

Good Morning!

Bulgaria has a holiday called “July Morning” that celebrates freedom, friendship, and love of life.

Maybe I’ll move to Bulgaria…

1. I cannot believe this doesn’t alienate more people than it pleases. I watched the Red Sox-Orioles game last night to open the Strangest Baseball Season Ever in Boston, and would have enjoyed it completely ( the Sox won 13-2) had I not had to constantly avert my eyes from the Red Sox management’s ostentatious virtue signaling, if you can call it that, since pandering to Black Lives Matter is far from virtuous.

Not only was the special BLM MLB logo at the back of the pitcher’s mound (BLM MLB is a palindrome!), but the full Black Lives Matter name was emblazoned on a banner, about 250 feet long, across the empty bleachers.

I’d love to know how many Red Sox executives, or if any of them, actually know what the “movement” the team is pimping for intends. My guess is that the decision to promote BLM was a cynical go along to get along decision that had nothing to do with substance, but rather was made in fear and expediency.

2. On the Fox News harassment accuser. The sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Tucker Carlson by Cathy Areu now appears to have fatal flaws. Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

Sunday Evening Ethics, 5/31/2020: Riot Disinformation And Ethics Lunacy

Hot enough for ya?

1. Let’s see exactly how much disinformation the pubic will follow and tolerate.

  • Yesterday I and everyone else heard Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz claim that most of the rioters were from out of state,  claiming that “the best estimates” were that “outsiders” comprised about 80% of the people arrested. It was nonsense. The arrest statistics showed the opposite was true. As of 11am CST on Saturday, a sample of data from the Hennepin County Jail’s showed that 86% of those arrested provided a Minnesota address to police. Later in the day, St. Paul released arrest information showing that two-thirds of people arrested since Thursday gave police in-state addresses.
  • CNN reporter Reza Aslan actually tweeted that Trump supporters were doing the rioting. Accountability for this ridiculous, straight up lie? None.
  • Cherry-picking isolated episodes from riot scenes around the country, Slate wrote that “Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide,” and that “law enforcement officers escalated the national unrest.”

2.  Let’s see exactly how much disinformation the pubic will follow and tolerate, (cont.) A typical effort: on Thursday, a New York Times front page story announced “Fury in Minneapolis Over The Latest in a Long Line of Police Killings.” What was that “long line”? It was nowhere to be found, at least not in the article. We are told that the Minneapolis police have received “many excessive force complaints, especially by black residents.” Complaints do not equal misconduct. We are told that “Mr. Floyd’s death — and the recent shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia — has also prompted comparisons to previous killings involving the police and black people, including those of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.” Continue reading