Do you know what legal ethics opinions are? Many lawyers don’t know, or barely pay attention to them, but the opinions are important. They are written when bar associations have to decide how to handle the gray areas of professional ethics, and believe me, there are more gray areas in legal ethics than the profession likes to admit. Some jurisdictions churn out lots of important and useful legal ethics opinions all year long; others barely bother with them. (Idaho simply stopped issuing such opinions decades ago.) Still, the LEOs, as they are called, are essential when one of the many legal ethics issues crop up that a jurisdiction’s rules themselves don’t cover.
Although bar associations do a terrible job making their legal ethics opinions’ availability known to the general public, LEOs have invaluable information to convey about how lawyers are ethically obligated to serve their clients. They are also essential if people like me are going to be able to remind Maryland’s lawyers about their ethical duties as part of continuing legal education seminars and expert opinions.
So why is it that Maryland, alone among the 51 U.S. jurisdictions, refuses to allow the public access to their legal ethics opinions? All right, neither does Arkansas, but nobody can read in ArkansasKIDDING!!! I’M KIDDING!
In order to find out what the Bar Association has decided regarding specific legal ethics conundrums, or whether the state has any position at all, one has to be a dues-paying member of the Maryland Bar. Never mind that Maryland lawyers, who, like most lawyers, often are subject to the ethics rules of other jurisdictions, can access neighboring bar association LEO’s with a couple of clicks on their computers. Never mind fairness or reciprocity.
Here’s how the question “Why do we hide our ethics opinions?” was answered by one Maryland lawyer online:
The Southern Poverty Law Center says this is a photo of music loving neo-Nazis. Terrifying.
White nationalists were planning on having a music festival meet-and-greet at the Joppatowne, Maryland Memorial VFW Post 5838 on St Patrick’s Day. The 11th annual event (yes, there are Nazi music festivals…) was announced on Stormfront.org, and coordinated by Baltimore area far-right record label Label 56, which distributes skinhead music, CDs, videos, and other white supremacy merchandise. More about the record label:
Label 56 is the music outlet for a violent neo-Nazi gang called Maryland State “Skinheads” (MDS). MDS head Jason Tankersley, while more involved with their Mixed Martial Arts arm has some organizational input over Label 56 as well. A link for Label 56 appears on the homepages of several other Northeastern racist skinhead groups, including the Keystone State Skinheads, American Thule Society, and the Vinlanders Social Club. Maryland State Skinheads, Keystone United and Supreme White Alliance members are regular attendees.
It’s Going Down ( or IGD) describes itself as
“a media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist, and autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. We publish original content alongside anonymous submissions and repost articles from other websites which share our perspectives. We do not and have not called for events. Our news network is made up of friends and comrades across so-called North America whose mission is to uplift and build capacity for a wide range of social struggles by providing news and analysis of when it goes down: riots, strikes, sabotage, occupations, expropriations, rebellion, revolt, insurrection. Whether together or alone – we support liberatory revolt.”
This event is indicative of the rise of white supremacism and the growing organizational capacity of the far-Right nationally. The Ku Klux Klan, and specifically the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, have been distributing flyers locally in Ellicott City, Towson, and Bel Air, and as far away as North Carolina. It is important to oppose the increasing Neo-Nazi presence together. Time is of the essence. The Mid-Atlantic General Defense Committee (GDC) is monitoring developments in Maryland and working with at-risk communities to respond as they emerge. The GDC encourages everyone to get involved in taking an active stance now.
The complaints and threats from IGD and other allied groups were successful in getting the VFW to cancel the event. Continue reading →
As part of the post 2016 Presidential election freak-out, hundreds colleges and universities have crossed all lines of fairness, professionalism and objectivity by making it clear to students who did not find Hillary Clinton’s defeat motivation to consider an overdose of Seconal that they were skunks at the picnic. College deans and presidents sent out campus wide expressions of horror at Trump’s victory, like the Vassar president’s message I noted here. University of Arkansas’ Dean, Michael Schwartz, offered free counseling services to students who were dist ought following the “most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.” The only previous occasion when the school offered counseling was after a student committed suicide.
Then there are the administrative efforts to make it clear that dissent from the approved, sensitive, politically correct, university-sancioned and of course obviously beyond question or rebuttal position that a group of racist deplorables elected the anti-Christ as POTUS.
At Edgewood College, students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on post-it-notes and placing them on a designated table. Clearly, it was expected that everyone would express anger, shock, despair or grief, but one such note read “Suck it up, pussies!” This, which I would call a very reasonable, if vulgarly expressed, reaction, was deemed a “hate crime” by college officials, who have asked police to investigate.
College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:
A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…
I admit it. I can’t keep up with all the progressive/Democrat/Hillary Corrupted/journalist and pundit freakouts over Donald Trump’s election, and I don’t want to. There is more to ethics and life than pointing out how completely so many have abandoned reason, fairness, proportion and their own previously stated principles because Donald Trump won the election. Well, that’s another beneficial effect of the result: Trump has inadvertently exposed how thin the veneer of decency and fairness was for a large number of institutions, occupations and individuals. Among the examples about which I could and probably should write complete posts, but won’t, are these:
I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth….
So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary. No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.
This is the theme of the unethical response of the Angry Left—which increasingly appears to include everyone on the that side of the political spectrum. The double standard reigns. Conservatives should accept election results with grace and patriotism in the interests of national unity, but liberals can scream, protest, attack the system and claim fraud indefinitely. Republicans shouldn’t use fear as a political weapon, but Democrats can. Americans should give elected leaders a chance to progress beyond the uncivil and excessive rhetoric on both sides during a campaign, with the exception of this President. Continue reading →
Beginning in 2012, Dr. Lee Daugherty Biddison, a critical care physician at Johns Hopkins and some colleagues have held public forums around Maryland to solicit the public’s opinions about how life-saving medical assistance should be distributed when there are too many desperately ill patients and not enough resources. The exercise was part of the preparation for Biddenson’s participation in preparing official recommendations for state agencies that might end up as national guidelines regarding when doctors should remove one patient from a ventilator to save another who might have a better chance of surviving, or whether the young should have priority over the old.
Ethically, this is pure ends justifying the means stuff. The Golden Rule is useless—How would you like to be treated? I’d want to be left on the ventilator, of course!–and Kantian ethics break down, since Immanuel forbade using human life to achieve even the best objectives…like saving a human life. Such trade-offs of life for life (or lives) is the realm of utilitarianism, and an especially brutal variety….so brutal that I doubt that it is ethics at all.
When Dr. Biddenson justifies his public forums by saying that he wants to include current societal values in his life-for-a-life calculations, she is really seeking current biases, because that’s all they are. On the Titanic, it was women and children first, not because it made societal sense to allow some of the most productive and vibrant minds alive to drown simply because they had a Y chromosome, but because that’s just the way it was. Old women and sick children got on lifeboats; young men, like emerging mystery writer Jacque Futrelle (and brilliant young artist Leonardo DiCaprio), went down with the ship. That’s not utilitarianism. That’s sentimentalism.
The New York Times article mostly demonstrates that human beings are incapable of making ethical guidelines, because Kant was right: when you start trading one life for another, it’s inherently unethical, even if you have no choice but to do it. Does it make societal sense to take away Stephen Hawking’s ventilator to help a drug-addicted, habitual criminal survive? Well, should violating drug laws sentence a kid to death? TILT! There are no ethical answers, just biased decisions. Continue reading →
George Washington Law School Professor John F. Banzhaf III has filed an ethics complaint against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with Maryland’s Attorney Grievance Commission. Banzhaf accuses Mosby in his 10-page complaintof breaching Maryland’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers, which requires that a prosecutor refrain from prosecuting a charge unless it is supported by probable cause, in her conflicted and incompetent prosecution of six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. The complaint also flags Mosby’s improper use of public statements to bias the administration of justice.
Of course he is right, as I have repeatedly explained here, here, here, here, andhere. I assume there have been other complaints before this one, but he has made the issue a high profile one, and that’s excellent news.
Mosby has earned the Mike NiFong treatment: the unethical prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse rape case was disbarred, briefly jailed, and sued. She is black, female, and a Democrat, and NiFong remains one of the very, very few prosecutors to be punished significantly for unethical conduct. I will be amazed if the commission does anything momentous or sufficient to discourage grandstanding prosecutors like Mosby in the future, even though such prosecutors are willing to ruin lives for political gain.
Few in the general public know about it or understand what’s going on. Structured settlement are annuities bought by insurance companies to ensure a regular flow of compensatory damages to personal injury and medical malpractice plaintiffs to cover their medical costs and living expenses. The settlements aren’t given out in lump sums because many such plaintiffs are poor and have no experience handling money. A large payment of millions of dollars guarantees that needy family members and friends will beg, plead for and demand loans and hand-outs, while the recipients themselves are tempted to buy luxuries they have long dreamed about with funds intended to cover lifetime cancer treatments.
Once they are on their own, however, the compensated victims are targeted by viatical settlement companies, both those with cute opera-singing commercials and those without. They undermine the sound advice of the attorneys with slogans like “It’s your money!” and try to persuade the former plaintiffs to unstructure the structured settlement by selling the annuity’s income stream to the viatical settlement company at a deep discount. Result: the annuity company gets the regular income at bargain rates, and the victims get a new, smaller lump sum to dissipate in exchange. The statistics say that the customer of the viatical settlement company will run out of cash long before he or she runs out of the need for it. But for the company, it’s a sweet deal.