Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/4/2020: Marching To Georgia Edition

Hello, I must be going…

Desperately trying to get this post out before the walls close in. I’m doing a program for an always receptive BigLaw firm in Atlanta, and its a program I know well, and I’m still anxious about it. It doesn’t help that I have some kind of cold, but the show must go on…

1. Super Tuesday musings…

  • Last night, I stumbled on  a Fox News panel discussing the Julie Principle at length regarding Joe Biden’s brain farts and Trump’s Tweets! They didn’t use that term, of course, but it would have helped explicate what they were trying to say, which was that once you’ve decided to accept the flaws of a candidate, more evidence of those flaws won’t change your support.
  • Speaking of… Joe Biden got his sister and his wife mixed up during his victory speech. If there was ever a question of how much the country doesn’t want socialism, the fact that so many Democrats preferred to vote for this sad husk than capitulate to Bernie should answer it.
  • How proud I am of my home state, which told the world that even voters who know  best, and presumably support to some extent, Elizabeth Warren don’t think she should be President. Thus they validated Abe Lincoln’s rule: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Warren was the 2020 field’s worst demagogue and biggest hypocrite, as well as one of the most shameless liars. As I write this, she hasn’t dropped out yet, perhaps because she doesn’t want to help Sanders, whom she still resents for saying that a women couldn’t be elected President. Well, he was right as far as she is concerned. Good.

Warren was easily my least favorite of the Democratic contenders from an ethics standpoint. After I posted on Facebook about one of her many deceptions, a friend, apparently seriously, commented that I seemed to have a real bias against her. It reminded me of one of Martin Short’s brilliant improvs as idiot celebrity interviewer “Jiminy Glick,” when he cracked up Mel Brooks by asking, “Now what is it that you have against Hitler?”

2. Wait, he did WHAT??? Cedric Sunray, a college recruiter from Oklahoma Christian University,  visited Harding Charter Preparatory High School in Oklahoma City last month and met with 110 juniors and four teachers in the gymnasium to talk about opportunities at the college. He then asked the students to line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion, and then line up from “nappiest” to straightest hair.  As the students lined up, some of the teachers left to report the request to school administrators, who intervened. Sunray was quickly fired.

Sunray later wrote that the exercise was meant to be an “icebreaker” and that he has made the same presentation dozens of times at other institutions. Really? And nobody complained?

The president of Oklahoma Christian University, John deSteiguer, visited the prep school to apologize to students and staff members. Too late, I’d say. Any school that would let someone like Sunray represent it is too inept to be trusted. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2020: Dogs, Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, D.C., Jimmy Kimmel, Threatening Deplorables And Restricting Rights

Well, dogs are good, anyway…

1. Stop making  dogs defend Mike Bloomberg!…Is there anything too trivial that people won’t use to attack politicians? A CBS News video began circulating online yesterday afternoon showing Michael Bloomberg shaking hands with a man in Burlington, Vermont, then taking his dog’s upper jaw  in his hand and “shaking” the dog’s  snout  He then scratched the dog’s ears. The social media mob called him a dog abuser.

Morons. That’s a move that most dogs enjoy, as well as someone grasping their whole muzzle. It shows Bloomberg is comfortable with and knowledgeable about dogs. I used to do both moves with our 165 pound English Mastiff, and our Jack Russells.

2.  I know this is of interest to almost nobody who isn’t a lawyer, but trust me, it’s a big deal. The District of Columbia has long been the only U.S. jurisdiction that allows law firms to have non-lawyer partners, a structure prevented everywhere else by the general prohibition on lawyers sharing their fees with non-lawyers. When D.C. adopted its revolutionary approach, it assumed that the states would soon follow, with the American Bar Association’s assent. Because that hasn’t happened, a state-licensed lawyer with a D.C. license participating in a legal firm in D.C. could technically be found to  be violating that state’s ethics rules , though the District has negotiated a truce in that potential controversy.

Meanwhile, those special law firms with non-lawyer members are proliferating like legal rabbits. Now  a Jan. 23 press release tells the world that the District of Columbia Bar is taking comments regarding proposed changes to its ethics rules that could allow external ownership of law firms, as well as blended businesses in which lawyers and non-lawyers provide both legal and nonlegal services, like accounting. Or massages–who knows? Right now, law firms by definition can only practice law.

Perhaps even more significantly, California, Utah and Arizona are also studying changes that would relax ethics rules barring non-lawyers from holding a financial interest in law firms. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Refresher, 1/15/2020: Firing, Tweeting, Protesting, Talking Friends Into Suicide…

Hello?

Traffic here inexplicably dead yesterday and today. Is there a secret ethics convention nobody told me about? There is, isn’t there? I’m hurt…

1. It’s too bad so many readers don’t pay attention to the baseball posts, because a lot of fascinating ethics issues with general applications arise…like right now. Yesterday, as already mentioned in an update to yesterday’s post and a couple of comments, the Boston Red Sox “parted ways with Manager Alex Cora by mutual agreement.” (He was fired.) In a press conference I just watched, the Red Sox brass said that Cora, who was both successful and popular in Boston, was let go solely because of the MLB investigation report regarding his involvement in cheating while serving as a coach for the Houston Astros in 2017, and the allegations of cheating  while managing the Sox in 2018, still under investigation, played no part in the decision. What they meant is that the Astros cheating was going to result in a long suspension for Cora anyway, so the team didn’t need to wait for the bad news regarding his cheating in Boston.

The weirdest thing about the press conference is that none of the four Sox officials would do anything but praise Cora, his character, his judgment, his dedication to the team, his devotion to baseball. Gee, why did they fire this saint, then? Alex Cora’s character is obviously flawed, or he wouldn’t have masterminded major cheating schemes that cost the Astros 5 million dollars and four key draft choices while losing the jobs of two men who advanced his career. Cora’s judgement also stinks, because his actions have now cast a shadow over two teams, their championships, and the records of the players his schemes benefited.

If he was so dedicated to the team, why is  it now facing a public relations and competitive disaster because of his actions? If he was devoted to baseball, how did he end up at the center of a scandal that undermines the perceived integrity of the game? Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: The Appeals Court For The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts

I am not honoring the appeals court that just upheld the lower court judgment in my favor in a two-year old (and probably not over yet) frivolous lawsuit against my for defamation by an angry ex-Ethics Alarms commenter. The court’s decision rejecting the plaintiff’s appeal was dictated by precedent and black letter law, as was the decision in the original case. It took no special courage or integrity to hold so, and in fact any other result would have evinced rank incompetence.

No, I am awarding the court Ethics Hero status after receiving today its  published opinion in case n. 18-p-1605, where the judgement of the lower court judge was affirmed. It is officially a summary decision, and thus not binding precedent, since the usual details a full appellate opinion would contain are missing. However, in the eight page opinion affirming the lower court dismissal of the complaint, the judges are impressively restrained, respectful, and thorough. They manage this despite the fact that the lawsuit was doomed from the beginning, without merit or law on its side. The persistence of the plaintiff has wasted taxpayer money (and mine) and occupied time the judges needed to address more serious and legitimate matters.

Nonetheless, the fact that a pro se litigant is able to receive more than perfunctory handling of even a complaint this misbegotten and trivial speaks well for our system, and very well for the judges. Despite all the attacks claiming that our system only caring about ‘justice for the rich,” a pro se litigant seeking justice (as he saw it) and using confused, garbled and outrageously long documents to that end,  cannot deny that his case and arguments were ignored. He lacked the financial resources to hire a lawyer to pursue them (though I wonder if any lawyer would have accepted the representation) and represented himself—rather badly, but still, he took his best shot. Continue reading

“It’s OK To Be White” Strikes Again, And Drives People Crazy Again! GOOD!

The first Ethics Alarms post about the trolling masterpiece “It’s OK to be white” was in 2017. The message, apparently launched by those puckish trouble-makers at 4Chan,  first appeared on stickers appearing on the Harvard campus, sparking an idiotic response from an African American dean. I concluded, in part, that the sticker campaign was brilliant “no matter who came up with it or what the motive was,”;  that anyone who was troubled by the message is part of the problem the stickers are responding to, and  that the stickers would have  been harmless if they were treated as harmless, and they should have been.

The Ethics Alarms’ self-appointed Voice of the Woke at the time took umbrage, saying, “The stickers are stupid. No one disputes that it’s OK to be white….The correct response from average citizens to this display of faux persecution should be mockery and ridicule, not outrage.” Realizing a hanging curve over the middle of the plate when I say one, I replied in part, ,

“You know, it’s easy to deal with any problem if you make up your own facts. Nobody says its not OK to be white? This list took me less than 10 minutes:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/texas-am-wont-fire-professor-who-called-for-killing-white-people/article/2622810
http://www.theroot.com/college-campus-shut-down-after-professors-letthemfucki-1796334903
http://www.theroot.com/for-black-people-who-have-to-deal-with-white-people-thi-1797835711
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/ta-nehisi-coates-whiteness-power.html?smid=fb-share&referer=http://m.facebook.com
http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/38149/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lady-gaga-the-problems-with-non-racist-white_us_59960aeee4b033e0fbdec279
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/toxic-whiteness-healing-white-people-internalised-racism-woman-sandra-kim-new-york-a7595216.html

Then there’s the Ethics Alarms anti-white racism tag…https://ethicsalarms.com/tag/anti-white-racism/ All resulting in THIS:
http://www.npr.org/2017/10/24/559604836/majority-of-white-americans-think-theyre-discriminated-against

As I may have mentioned, I was explicitly told that the only reason I was not hired as an Assistant US Attorney in DC …a life and career-altering result for me…was that I was white. Now, I think it is reasonable to assume that if I was not hired because I was white, there was something “not OK” with my being white. I’m not unhappy or bitter about this, but it happened.

The problem with being an ideologue… is that it requires distorting reality.

Continue reading

Another Leap Down A Slippery Slope: Massachusetts Repeats The Michelle Carter Debacle

The Suffolk County (Mass.) District Attorney has charged Inyoung You, a 21-year-old South Korean native and former Boston College student,  with involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of 22-year-old Alexander Urtula, who jumped to his death on May 20, 2019, the day he was going to graduate.  You was in cellphone contact with her boyfriend that day, and was at the scene when he plunged to his death.

While Urtula struggled with mental health issues throughout the pair’s 18-month relationship,  You was “physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive, and was so “wanton and reckless” that it  “resulted in overwhelming Mr. Urtula’s will to live,” the DA told reporters. “She was aware of his spiraling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by her abuse, yet she persisted, continuing to encourage him to take his own life.”  Among the over 47,000 text messages sent by You in the two months leading up to Urtula’s suicide, here were hundreds “where (You) instructed him” to take his own life, as well as “claims that she, his family and the world would be better off without him.”

Nice.

But is it criminal?

There are differences in the two cases, but this is redolent of the 2017 prosecution and conviction Michelle Carter, who was convicted in the Bay State of involuntary manslaughter for urging her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself, which he did. The conviction was upheld by an appeals court this past February, so Carter will apparently serve out her entire 15 month sentence—for the content of her text messages. Continue reading

From The Anti-Freedom of Speech Files: UConn And The Connecticut Hate Speech Law

The University of Connecticut  chapter of the NAACP is circulating a video that  shows two students walking through a parking lot blithely shouting out “nigger.” It also sent out a tweet stating, “If you have any information about this racist recording at UConn, please email naacpuconn1909@gmail.com We will not tolerate racist behavior on this campus.”

To make a relevant point at the outset, this is not “racist conduct,” but racist speech at most. Racist speech is constitutionally protected (that First Amendment thingy), but you wouldn’t know it from the Connecticut  law the two students have been charged with violating. It decrees:

Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor.

Ridiculing individuals based on gender or sexual orientation is apparently just fine, though: it’s an old law.  The  charge is punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $50, or both.

Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj, the two idiots involved, face  possible expulsion from UConn for violating the school’s code of conduct. That’s a separate issue. A school has a right to make reasonable demands on student comportment, and civility, but what is “reasonable” is an ethical gray area. If the students thought they were alone, for example, I am not sure that a state school should be able to punish them. These morons were just shouting the offensive word into the air. Can they be punished for saying “nigger” in their dorm rooms, when they are alone? If the campus NAACP’s circulation of the video is what is disrupting the campus, why isn’t that a punishable offense? The NAACP circulating the video upset and offended more students than the parking lot shouts. Continue reading