Tag Archives: legal ethics

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History

Good morning…

1. They are showing “Perry Mason” reruns again on cable TV. That was the show that made my generation want to be lawyers, under the delusion that a defense attorney could regularly prove a criminal defendant innocent. (Pssst! They are almost all guilty.) The show holds up, but boy, Perry was sleazy. In an episode I watched while I was sick, he had his investigator tell the hapless prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (Ham Burger to his friends) that he had found an incriminating piece of evidence that proved someone other than Perry’s client had committed murder. Ham relied on the information and got the killer to confess once he was faced with the production of the “smoking gun.” But Perry’s investigator hadn’t really found anything.

Having one’s agent lie to the state prosecutor is a serious ethics breach. Perry also caused the DA to tell a falsehood to get the confession, though Burger wasn’t lying, since he believed Perry’s contrivance. Prosecutors are no more allowed to lie than other lawyers, but when they do lie “in the public interest,” they seldom get more than a slap on the wrist from courts and bar ethics committees, if that. Burger didn’t seem very upset that Perry conned him, because the real killer was caught. The ends justifies the means, or did in “Perry Mason.”

2. Ick or ethics? A Chinese scientist claims that he had successfully employed embryonic gene editing to help protect twin baby girls from infection with HIV. We are told that bioethicists in China and elsewhere are reacting with “horror.” Writes the Times,

“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q….If human embryos can be routinely edited, many scientists, ethicists and policymakers fear a slippery slope to a future in which babies are genetically engineered for traits — like athletic or intellectual prowess — that have nothing to do with preventing devastating medical conditions.”

As with cloning, my view on this controversy is that a new technology does not become unethical because of how it might be used. That unethical use will be unethical, and that is what needs to be addressed when and if the problem arises. (Airplanes could be used to drop atom bombs!) The fear of “designer babies” also seems to be an example of “ick”—it’s strange and creepy!—being mistaken for unethical. Making stronger, smarter, more talented and healthier human beings is not in itself unethical, even if it is the stuff of science fiction horror novels and Josef Mengele’s dreams. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Michael Avenatti Arrest

Welcome to karma, Michael Avenetti!

News item:

“Attorney Michael Avenatti has been placed under arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence and was booked early Wednesday evening.

Los Angeles Police Department officer Jeff Lee said the domestic violence report was taken on Tuesday in West Los Angeles and the arrest was made Wednesday.
“We can confirm that today LAPD Detectives arrested Michael Avenatti on suspicion of domestic violence. This is an ongoing investigation and we will provide more details as they become available,” the LAPD Twitter account posted Wednesday. In a statement, Avenatti called the allegations “completely bogus.”

…Avenatti posted $50,000 bail and left police custody Wednesday evening. He told reporters waiting outside the station, “I have never struck a woman. I never will strike a woman.”

“I am confident I will be fully exonerated,” he added.

…Avenatti emerged this year as a regular antagonist of President Donald Trump, beginning with his legal representation of Stormy Daniels and his frequent media appearances..he has publicly flirted with a potential bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Trump in 2020. The alleged domestic violence incident could dash Avenatti’s prospects as a potential insurgent Democratic candidate and clash with the image he has presented of himself as an advocate for women, including Daniels in her clash with Trump and an accuser against recently confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The Vermont Democratic Party canceled Avenatti’s appearances for Friday and Saturday following his arrest, and it will refund all ticket sales, said Christopher Di Mezzo, the party’s communications director.

This story is like a great, big, ethics piñata that got hit squarely by a stick and spilled ethics candy all over the floor!

Observations:

1. Is it unethical to take pleasure in the misfortune of another, even a grandstanding, publicity-obsessed gasbag who makes me want to burn my bar card? Nah, not when the inspiration for mirth is condign justice. Like Michael Cohen, the shenanigans of Avenatti were signature significance for a phony and a charlatan, and his fall was just a matter of time.

We should always take pleasure in the exposure of such public figures, however it occurs. Continue reading

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up. 11/3/2018: Cohen Does What He Does, Ocasio-Cortez Mongers Hate, And Hoggett Goes Rogue

I’ll give you a morning golden and true…

1 .Regarding Michael Cohen. The news media, Trump-haters and “the resistance’ are all giddy over Michael Cohen claiming that President Trump made racist comments in his presence. Lawyers who say such things about clients get disbarred. They get disbarred because it is proof that they lack the honesty, trustworthiness and integrity to be trusted professionals.There is no reason whatsoever to trust Michael Cohen, so relying on his account of anything is just an exercise in confirmation bias. He is not a reliable source, and what he says at this point should be taken for what it is: the latest effort by a desperate crook to somehow survive the consequences of his own low-life ways.

2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez easily makes my list of the dozen most unethical candidates seeking election next week; I hope to get that up soon. Here is the fundraising email the New York socialist sent out:

“Six days from now, we can defeat the brutal white supremacist forces of anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant nativism, and racism.We can hold accountable the cold-hearted monsters who have repeatedly attacked our health care. We can send a message to the bigots and billionaires that this country belongs to all of us. We can win if we show up on November 6. We must end Republican control of Congress and begin to reclaim our nation. A Democratic majority will not bring back the eleven Jewish people in Pittsburgh, massacred while they prayed. Or the two Black people gunned down days before at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. It won’t fully stop the relentless attacks against immigrants in America. But on Sunday evening, Pittsburgh mourners—angry and broken-hearted like us—chanted ‘Vote! Vote! Vote!’ They understand the magnitude of the midterm election six days from today: that it affords us the chance to forge a powerful bulwark against Donald Trump’s hate and hold accountable the Republicans who have been complicit in every step of his toxic, self-serving, and destructive agenda. We must offer a path out of the darkness….This is our chance to take action in solidarity with everyone whose lives are threatened by the hate-filled policies of Trump and the GOP,” she says. “Our chance to push back against white supremacist forces across our nation, against the xenophobes who are militarizing the border, against the bigots who seek to erase our transgender families, against the apologists for sexual assault and the Islamophobes who sow hate to divide us.”

I considered doing an ethics audit of this screed—remember, she’s supposed to be a rising star of the Democratic Party—but decided that any objective reader here is more than capable of doing so without any help from me. Res ipsa loquitur.

How should we characterize someone who would vote to give power to a candidate willing to sign such a message?

3.  By all means, let’s believe all female accusers...Judy Munro-Leighton, who as “Jane Doe” accused Brett Kavanaugh of rape in an email to Senator Kamala Harris, was treated as a credible accuser and caused the Judiciary Committee to question the SCOTUS nominee about her claims. Now she admits that it was all a partisan-driven lie.

Who suspected that?

She confessed to Committee investigators that she “just wanted to get attention” and that “it was a tactic.” She said she had called Congress during the Kavanaugh hearing process before the Blasey-Ford  accusation multiple times  to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Regarding the false sexual-assault allegation sent to the Committee through Harris, she said: “I was angry, and I sent it out.” Asked  whether she had ever met Judge Kavanaugh, she said: “Oh Lord, no.”

Her false rape allegations against Kavanaugh had exactly as much corroborating evidence as Blasey-Ford’s: none whatsoever. Yet, still, to this second, an astounding number of smart, reasonable Democrats, especially women, argue, and presumably believe, that such an accusation–in Blasey Ford’s case, one that is three decades old and dates from high school— should disqualify a man with an unblemished adult and professional reputation from high office. And they are indignant about it, too.

I don’t get it.

Reportedly, the Senate received over a thousand claims from women claiming that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted or harassed them.

The Senate has asked for criminal sanctions against Munro-Leighton.

Good. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/17/18: Travel Hell Edition

Good Morning from Virginia Beach, VA…

…where I am giving a legal ethics seminar to a law firm this morning!

1. Count the ethics issues in Travel Hell…This story is true, and I’m not changing any names, because nobody is innocent.

Last night I had to drive to Virginia Beach after another seminar in D.C., and after yet another road trip on family business. It turned out to be a three and a half hour drive in a pouring rain. Arriving at 2:20 am at the Virginia Beach Westin, where I was supposed to have a room, I was immediately informed by the graveyard shift desk clerk that we could not stay there…because the previous occupants of the room reserved for us (my wife and business partner also made the trip) had “left fecal matter” all over the room, creating a HAZMAT situation. Not to worry, though! The beachfront Hilton would put us up, at the Westin’s expense!

Since I wasn’t paying for the room, this was small consolation.

Of course, we had unloaded the car, and the Hilton was 20 minutes away, and the desk clerk had neither an address nor a phone number, which I pointed out to her was essential. (The point of staying at the Westin was that it was convenient to the location of the law firm.) So we loaded up the car and set out to the new destination, arriving just before 3 am. There, the Hilton desk clerk told us that the hotel had just begun an audit, and we could not be put in a room for at least 20 minutes. I was literally afraid to tell my wife this, as she was in the car alternately fuming and wincing in pain because the endless trip had revived her sciatica.

I was not nice to the Hilton desk clerk, who swore that she told the Westin about the problem, and that they should have told us. I said that I didn’t care whose fault it was, they were now responsible for two weary travelers, and that it was her responsibility to fix the problem. She found a very nice man who got a big tip from me for taking charge of our vehicle and taking our stuff up to our room when the “audit” was over.

Once in the room, we discovered that two of the lamps didn’t work, the desk lamp was missing, and the clock was blinking. I told the clerk to send someone up and have the room in the shape I expect hotel rooms to be in before I walk in the door—including having the clock set and functioning.

On the plus side, no fecal matter was in evidence….

2. Why people hate lawyers…Branson Duck Vehicles and Ripley Entertainment are facing multiple lawsuits in the horrific duck boat accident that killed 17 people in Missouri , including nine members of a single family. In court papers filed this week, the companies’ lawyer cited an 1851 maritime law to limit or eliminate liability for the July tragedy.

In a filing in federal court in Missouri, the defendants denied negligence in the sinking of the boat, and argues that if a court does find negligence, they have no liability because, under that law, “the Vessel was a total loss and has no current value. No freight was pending on the Vessel.”

The reaction was predictable. Human beings have no value? This was a Hail Mary defense tactic to be sure, but if that’s the clients’ best option, it is the lawyers’ duty to argue it, IF they first inform their clients that it is a likely public relations disaster that as a cure could be worse than the disease, and seems unlikely to do anything but inflame a jury.

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No, President Trump Did Not Promise To Pay A Million Dollars To A Charity If Elizabeth Warren Took A DNA Test!

…and Warren, a lawyer, either knows he didn’t and is saying so anyway, or is saying so without checking what he actually said, which, for a lawyer allegedly trying to enforce a contract, is both incompetent and dishonest.

And once again, the complicit mainstream media is deceiving the public to assist a Democrat’s misrepresentation. Nice.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Warren called on Trump to pay the $1 million to charity. Trump replied to a reporter, “I didn’t say that; you better read that again.”

Says the Hill, in an article by Jordan Fabian, “Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did.” In fact, he didn’t. This Time, Trump is telling the truth. The Hill, using the news media’s favorite trick of late, pulls only part of the relevant quote: “I will give you a million dollars, to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,I have a feeling she will say ‘no.’ ”

That wasn’t the whole statement. Bless law professor Ann Althouse: I was going to go through the analysis, and I really don’t have time. She’s retired now, has the time, and is a better contact lawyer than I’ll ever be. Here was her absolutely correct explanation: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/5/18: The Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck STILL Keeps Rolling Along, But There’s Always Baseball, So Hope Survives

Good Morning!

1. Ethics Dunce, Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Division: Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who has already set a record for Supreme Court justices making post-career foolish statements that undermine their reputations, just violated a previously unbreached principle of professional ethics and protocol for ex-Justices. He told a private group that Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Court because of his “temperament.” I was thinking of ranking the rapidly proliferating bogus excuses for voting down Kavavaugh (I posted this instead). The temperament one is near the bottom of the barrel, in a layer or two above throwing ice and the comments in his yearbook. In his entire judicial career, there have been no incidents of unprofessional temperament or demeanor, and somehow I think that if any sitting judge was accused of being a rapist by a witness or a lawyer in his courtroom, an outburst of anger would be considered excusable. It’s a bad and unfair “gotcha!” argument by Democrats, but even it it was valid, Stevens is not supposed to be commenting on who belongs on the Court….just as Barack Obama should not be attacking his predecessor after George W. Bush was so exemplary in not attacking his successor.

2. Weird baseball ethics. I meant to include this one yesterday. In the Colorado-Cubs wild card play-off game, runners were on first and second with one out when a slow bouncer was hit to Rockies third-sacker Nolan Arrenado just as Cubs runner Javy Baez approached him on the way to third. Arenado tagged Baez out, and Baez wrapped his arms around him. Meanwhile, the runner on first went to second, and the batter reached first. Arenado smiled and disentangled himself, but he didn’t–couldn’t—throw to either base for another out.

It was absolutely interference. A runner can’t do that, but the umpires didn’t call it (the double play would have been called without a throw, and the inning ended), so the frame continued.  The game was close, and if the Cubs had scored (they didn’t) that inning, it would have been because Baez broke the rules and the umpires didn’t notice (or care). The announcers opined that Arenado didn’t “sell it,” that if he had violently pushed Baez away and tried to make a throw, interference might have been called. Instead, he smiled and treated Baez’s hug  like a sentimental show of affection.

Once upon a time, before player unions, huge contracts and routine fraternization, no player would have expressed friendly amusement as Arenado did. Nolan is the Rockies best player, and he stopped concentrating on the game. Only moral luck stopped it from being a disastrous lapse. Continue reading

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Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up And Sunday Left-Overs, 9/10/18: Values Under Fire

Good Morning.

1. A plug. The computer rescue service GuruAid is why I couldn’t get a Warm-Up post up yesterday: about four different technicians spend from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm helping me fix a serious malfunction in my old Dell PC, so I wouldn’t have to lose Windows 7 forever. It wreaked havoc with my day and schedule, but the computer finally starts immediately without black-outs, red screens, blue screens, warning, check points, sudden freezes and other distractions.

2. Yeah, why waste time on all of this “values” stuff? The Texas Board of Education will decide in the coming months whether to accept the recommendations of a working group to end state requirements that the heroism of the Alamo’s defenders be taught to seventh graders in a required history course, as as study of  William Barrett Travis’s iconic letter written before the final Mexican siege that killed all of the approximately 200 defenders, including Travis. The letter ends, “I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country — Victory or Death.”

The group of educators and historians, tasked with streamlining social-studies standards, felt that teaching about “heroic” acts at the Alamo was “value-loaded,” and eliminating them from the curriculum, along with the significance of such Alamo figures as Davy Crockett and James Bowie would save 90 minutes.

You know, I don’t think I’m even going to bother explaining what’s wrong and alarming about this, except to note that if you wonder why our rising generations don’t understand what has been great about America, or why being a nation founded on values and ideals is important, this episode ought to enlighten you.

3. Beach ethics. Here is an interesting article about how to maximize ethical conduct at the beach. Continue reading

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