Tomorrow at 9 am, I’ll be launching the latest ProEthics musical CLE (Continuing Legal Education) seminar for the New Jersey State Bar. It’s called “Legal Ethics Serenade,” and is being zoomed. As with my other musical presentations, the great Mike Messer accompanies himself on guitar and occasionally other instruments as he belts out parodies of rock and pop classics retooled to raise complex legal ethics issues. Mike has been my muse for more than a decade. This time, he’ll be doing versions of “I’m a Believer,” “Oh Darling,” “Hello Mary Lou!,” “50 Ways to leave Your Lover,” “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” “Why Don’t We Di It in the Road?,” Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “You Were Always On My Mind,” and “Take Good Care of My Baby,” all followed by legal ethics musings by me, and, I hope, lively debate.
If any readers are New Jersey lawyers in search of ethics credits, the information is here.
I was just thinking of neighbors like Andrea Dick yesterday, after I walked my politically tolerant dog Spuds past the many obnoxious lawn signs that have proliferated in my little corner of Alexandria, Virginia. There is, of course, the large, hand painted wooden sign reading “Black Lives Matter” that is festooned with rainbow flags and a full size suit of armor for some reason. That’s been an eyesore for more than a year. Then there are the moronic “End Racism” virtue-signaling signs—“End Stupidity” would be equally effective—and that list of facile progressive nostrums, including “No human is illegal.” You know, this one:
Well aren’t you wonderful! There is also that oldie but goodie, “Dissent is Patriotic,” whatever that means. There are several versions of this one…
All of them are the equivalent of the homeowner standing on his or her front lawn and preaching through a megaphone, and in the cases of the homes that post signs like this one…
…the implication is that all the other houses nearby are full of greedy, racist bigots. All the signs offend me. The entire practice of using one’s property to preach, proselytize or politic is offensive. Yes, it’s protected speech, and using speech like that is abusing the right.
Andrea Dick is an angry supporter of former President Donald J. Trump and detests President Biden, so she has banners and signs expressing these view on her New Jersey house and lawn, including “Don’t Blame Me/I Voted for Trump” and several banners and signs with the message in the graphic under the post’s title. These are also ugly and offensive, but no more so than the virtue-signaling blather I have to see every day.
But her neighbors complained, so local officials first asked her to take down several of the banners that they said violated an anti-obscenity ordinance. She refused, and now she is resisting a judge’s order that she do so or face $250 fines every day the “Fuck Biden” banners and signs remain. Andrea Dick is pledging to fight it in court on free speech grounds.
“It’s my First Amendment right,” she said in an interview on Monday, “and I’m going to stick with that.”
I lost an ethics training client over the issue now raising its ethically-muddled head in New Jersey. Several years ago, during a day long seminar I taught for a teachers association, I stated that a teacher who taught grade school, middle school of high school students while pregnant and unmarried was harming her students, and that responsible school were ethically entitled to make pregnancy outside of marriage grounds for dismissal. Literally all of the attendees were outraged (even the two men in the group), though none could articulate a valid argument against what I said. (“The right to choose!” is not a valid argument in this context.)
I was right, they were wrong. The controversy now over a Catholic school art teacher who is demanding that she should have been able to keep her job despite being pregnant is much easier, or should be.
Victoria Crisitello was an art teacher at the New Jersey’s St. Theresa elementary school in Kenilworth. In the course of negotiating for a raise, she mentioned that she was having a baby. Weeks later, she was fired by the principal, a Roman Catholic nun, who explained that she was being terminated “because she was pregnant and unmarried.” “Sex out of wedlock violates a fundamental Catholic belief that the school in this instance felt it could not overlook,” lawyers for St. Theresa’s wrote in a petition to the state Supreme Court. Crisitello’s lawsuit was tossed out by two trial court judges, only to be restored each time when an appeals court sided with the ex-teacher. Now the state’s highest court, acting on an appeal by the school, has agreed review the case, which raises the continuing thorny question about the relationship between the government and religion.
Dana Stangel-Plowe, a teacher at the Dwight-Englewood School in Bergen County, New Jersey, resigned from the private school in a damning resignation letter subsequently published by the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism. FAIR is an organization created to oppose the teaching of Critical Race Theory teachings in schools. Among her other accusations in the letter, Stangel-Plowe wrote that the head of Dwight-Englewood, Rodney De Jarnett, told the faculty that he would fire everyone if he could to replace them with non-white teachers. She also revealed that $52,000 a-year school segregated its teachers by skin color and asked students to segregate themselves “within the oppressor or oppressed group.’
Upon reading the letter, John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, called the news media’s attention to her protest by tweeting his support, writing,
“All hail Dana Stangel-Plowe, who has resigned from the Dwight-Englewood School, which teaches students “antiracism” that sees life as nothing but abuse of power, and teaches that cringing, hostile group identity against oppression is the essence of a self,” and added,
We didn’t need the latest evidence to know that the push for mail-in balloting for the November election was a recipe for an existential national catastrophe—accusations, multiple disputed election results at all levels of government, endless lawsuits, a Constitutional crisis, riots, violence. The use of the pandemic to justify such an unacceptable risk has been one of the Democratic Party’s more audacious plots, and that’s saying something. So you run the polls like Trader Joe’s runs its grocery store: masks required, machines wiped down after every use, little footprints keeping everyone socially distanced,monitors enforcing them. Big honking deal.
The Post Office has been a waste of money and untrustworthy for at least a decade, creating a Catch 22. The amount of mail that has to be delivered the old-fashioned way is minuscule compared to the volume of former snail mail now going out over the internet. The U.S. could save money by phasing out the USPS and hiring FedEx and UPS to handle the essential mail remaining. Suddenly entrusting a national election to the rotting institution is, well, you know…
Even half-objective news reporting would make that obvious to all but the most addled citizens and children under the age of 14. But we don’t have any half-objective news reporting since the 2016 election made journalists permanent agents of the Left. Continue reading →
I like to start the week with a clean slate, especially now, when the George Floyd Freakout finds new ways to shatter previous standards of public decorum, civic decency, and respect for nation and community. However, despite over 3,000 words in three posts today, I still had to leave several stories on the bench that I wanted to explore.
What a coinky-dink! As soon as Bill De Blasio, one of those Democratic mayors that Philip Bump says did nothing to make his city more violent, disbanded the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, the city had an explosion of shootings. Police said a total of 70 people were shot this week, compared to 26 the same week last year.
This is what more communities have to look forward to as a result of city officials across the country putting their virtue-signaling embrace of white guilt and Black Lives Matter ahead of the welfare of citizens.
Of course, corruption in New Jersey politics is hardly news, but this story is ironic as Democrats are claiming that Republican opposition to mail-in voting is motivated by a desire to suppress election participation rather than a legitimate concern about the ease of voter fraud.
“New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal charged Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and two other men after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the state attorney general’s office that it had found hundreds of ballots from a special election last month stuffed in a single Paterson City mailbox,” InsiderNJ reported. According to WNBC-TV, more than 3,000 ballots were set aside over voting fraud concerns in the Paterson City Council election — 16,747 were received, but only 13,557 were accepted — meaning a whopping 19%, or nearly 1-in-5, were rejected. More than 800 of the rejected ballots were invalidated because they were found tethered together in mailboxes. This was especially significant because the margins in two of the contests were razor thin.
I had a devil of time finding out the party affiliation of the politicians charged in multiple news sources. That usually means that it’s a Democratic scandal. It was.
New Jersey lawyer Brian LeBon Calpin might still be practicing law instead of serving a suspension for a year if he had only perused the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List. Or if he had followed ABA ethics opinions. Or if he had properly functioning ethics alarms.
A former client, a massage parlor owner, had given him negative online reviews of legal skills and acumen. In retaliation, Calpin posted a negative review of her business, which he later defended with the “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” line. (It’s “sauce for the goose,”not “good,” you illiterate clod!) Calpin wrote,
“Well, Angee is a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children. A wonderful parent. Additionally, she has been convicted of shoplifting from a supermarket. Hide your wallets well during a massage. Oops, almost forgot about the DWI conviction. Well, maybe a couple of beers during the massage would be nice.”
Unfortunately, as Calpin would have known if he attended my last ethics seminar, the ABA has clarified in a recent ethics opinion what other state bar associations have held, which is that just because information about a former client is published and available to someone looking for it, unless it is is generally known as in “widely recognized by members of the public in the relevant geographic area”or “widely recognized in the former client’s industry, profession or trade,” the information is still protected by attorney-client confidentiality, and cannot be disclosed by the client’s lawyer. That’s the professional ethics prohibition on what Calpin did. The Ethics Alarms list explains what’s unethical about “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” in Rationalizations 1, 2, 2A, 7, 11A, 17, 24A, 40A, 53, and 59.
As is usually the case, Calpin’s career shows other evidence of flawed ethics alarms. The disciplinary board noted that he had previously violated ethics rules regarding neglect, diligence, keeping clients informed, delivering client funds or property, and returning client property after representation. He’s lucky that he’ll get his license back after only a year.
Whether New Jersey residents should consider that lucky is another issue.
1. Incompetent elected official of the moment, since there are so many revealing themselves lately I can’t keep up with them…it’s New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy! Asked by Fox News host Tucker Carlson if he realized the Bill of Rights prohibited his order prohibiting religious gatherings, the Democratic leader said,
“That’s above my pay grade, Tucker.I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”
Then he blathered on about how he consulted “experts” and religious leaders.
2. I don’t understand this story at ALL. NASCAR star Kyle Larson was competing in an iRacing event on Sunday when he lost communication with his spotter on his headset.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter in place order for the Golden State’s nearly 40 million residents to stay at home from March 20 to the foreseeable future. California is third among the states in number of Wuhan virus cases. So, naturally, people went to enjoy themselves at the beaches, hiking trails and parks.
New Jersey police arrested Eliyohu Zaks last week after a neighbor notified law enforcement that a large crowd had been observed at his home. It was a wedding. Police dispersed the crowd of at least fifty and charged Zaks with “maintaining a public nuisance.” Earlier in the week, police broke up two other weddings in the same neighborhood, and the day before, a fourth homeowner, Shaul Kuperwasser, was also charged with “maintaining a public nuisance” by hosting more than fifty friends at his residence.
This is something of an epidemic of its own. “The Lakewood Police is asking that its citizens be responsible and obey the directives set forth by the State of New Jersey for the safety and health of all,” local law enforcement said in a statement. “Those that choose not to will be subject to criminal prosecution.” Continue reading →
“Seinfeld” fans remember Jerry’s Uncle Leo, whose trademark was an over-enthusiastic, “Hel-LO!” The recurring character was played by the late Len Lesser, an obscure Hollywood bit player until the “Seinfeld” gig made him a familiar face. Well, I was watching “Bells Are Ringing,“ the 1960 film version of the hit Broadway musical known for the standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” (one of my Mom’s favorite songs), on TCM. The film is a reminder of just how luminous Judy Holliday was; she had won the Tony for playing the musical’s starring role on Broadway, and attention should be paid. Tragically, his was her last movie—during filming she was fighting the cancer that eventually killed her —-and I don’t know if there has ever been a female musical comedy star of greater range and presence. Anyway, there’s a number in the film where Judy tells Dean Martin that New York’s grim mass of humanity during rush hours will thaw if strangers only say “hello” to each other. Dean is skeptical, but he tries it on a dour-looking man waiting in the mob, whose face instantly breaks into a brilliant smile at the greeting. “Hel-LO!” the man responds to a surprised Dino, and soon everyone is happily saying hello to each other. You guessed it: the dour-looking man was played by “Uncle Leo” himself, Len Lesser. His catch phrase in “Seinfeld” was a deliberate reference to that bit, one of the very few memorable moments in the elderly actor’s career.
This is really a long introduction to a different point: I get a lot of ethics ideas from watching old movies. For example, I watched 1967’s “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,“ one of schlockmeister Roger Corman’s few films with an A-list cast and a big budget. The film’s solemn narrator is uncredited, but he is obviously meant to make the casual audience member think it’s Orson Welles. It wasn’t Welles, however: it was master vocal artist Paul Frees, who had a great, and often used, Welles impression. I assume he was uncredited so no one would realize that the narrator wasn’t the weighty Welles, but the voice of Boris Badinov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
I don’t know how Corman got away with this.
1. Ah, the accurate, trustworthy news media. Reuters reports, “A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said….two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.”
Here’s the plane:
2. Apparently the Democratic Party’s strategy regarding the economy is to just flagrantly lie about it. “The U.S. economy is working just fine for people like me. But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Mike Bloomberg said this week. That counter-factual statement echoes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders…pretty much the Democratic field, and it is demonstrably false.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans in the lower wage brackets are making more money, and at a better rate than they have for a very long time. Here’s a graph: Continue reading →