When we last looked in on the destructive, divisive, unconstitutional and unethical fiasco known here as the Trump Impeachment Ethics Train Wreck II, Senator Rand Paul had delivered an excoriating speech about the unconstitutional nature of it all, every Democratic Senator had voted to continue with a trial that is, as Paul stated, unconstitutional on its face, Democrats openly discussed passing a Bill of Attainder (which is what any action barring a single private citizen, Donald Trump, from running for office would be), the Chief Justice refused to sully his name by any involvement with such an embarrassment, and President Biden, while vowing out of one side of his mouth to be a unifying presence, lifted nary a finger to stop his party from engaging in a trial that was based on hate, vengeance, and the craven need to satisfy the worst of its supporters. Meanwhile, the mainstream news media refuses to inform the American public why the whole thing is bad partisan political theater and little else.
Now we have the following fun developments:
One of the many benefits of the Trump Administration and the concomitant 2016 Post-Election Ethics Train Wreck, one theory goes, is that it has exposed the ethical rot and lack of integrity of so many previously admired and trusted professions.
Among those that have thoroughly disgraced themselves in their rush to enamor themselves before their progressive, President Trump- loathing colleagues and friends—you know, the good people—have been journalists (of course), academics, psychiatrists, doctors, epidemiologists, ethicists, historians, teachers, judges and lawyers. Thus it shouldn’t have been a surprise (though it was to me, as always an optimistic sap) when efforts to prevent the Trump campaign from having the best possible legal advocates as it pursues challenges to the 2020 election results would bear ugly fruit.
The NeverTrump Lincoln Project joined the anti-Trump Democrats in targeting the law firms hired by the campaign. Election law specialists Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur and its lawyers were threatened with professional ruin. The theory went that daring to support the President of the United States constitutes a “dangerous attack on our democracy.” The firm, showing a dearth of legal ethics and integrity withdrew, whining that the assault on its reputation created a conflict of interest, was disrupting the firm, and had prompted at least one lawyer’s resignation. Since then other firms have dropped the campaign as a client, and the reason was fear—of losing clients, of being shunned in the legal community, of losing money. Mostly the latter.
This is only the latest progression in the decay of basic law firm ethics that began during the Obama administration. The reason is—broken record here—bias.
” Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it…”
As I explained here and here in 2015, the process of judicially determining whether the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional or not was unethically sabotaged by threats to and improper lobbying of the law firm that had agreed to defend it. The Justice Department and the President had refused to do their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and same-sex marriage activists pressured the biggest client of the firm that had accepted the case to pass the pressure along. It worked. The firm dropped the case, precipitating a resignation by the partner handling it and this ringing assertion of traditional legal ethics:
“…[D]efending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.”
This was, we are learning, not an anomaly. On the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Josh Blackmon relates how the same strategy of applying of unethical political pressure, and the unprofessional capitulation of major law firms to it, nearly made a legitimate challenge to illegal payments to insurers under Obamacare impossible. He explains in part: Continue reading
Charles Green helpfully sent me the link to today’s New York Times piece documenting how…
“the imbalance in legal firepower in the same-sex marriage cases resulted from a conviction among many lawyers that opposition to such unions is bigotry akin to racism. But there were economic calculations, too. Law firms that defend traditional marriage may lose clients and find themselves at a disadvantage in hiring new lawyers.”
“Am I right that something’s quite amiss here?” he asks. Indeed he is, and I’ve touched on it before.
There are several factors at work here, but the result is deplorable, and indictment of the corrupt values of the legal profession. One of the factors is bias, and it is a bias that the lawyers themselves are either unaware of, or are unwilling to avoid its effects as their professional codes of ethics require.
The majority of high-powered lawyers hail from urban centers where liberal culture flourishes among the wealthy, the powerful and the influential. These are cosmopolitan lawyers, sophisticated and urbane, who have gay colleagues, gay friends and gay children. They are less likely to be religious, and more likely to have contempt for those who are. Combine with them the legal academics who drive consensus on legal ethics matters—like most academics, they have marinated in the extreme leftist attitudes of U.S. academia—and it becomes clear why, as Michael W. McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge who teaches law at Stanford, tells the Times, “The level of sheer desire to crush dissent is pretty unprecedented.”
I noticed this in 2011, when the legal ethicists I follow, know and debate with decreed virtually en masse that a judge who was not only gay himself but in a long term domestic relationship with his partner had no ethical obligation to recuse himself before he issued the decision on the constitutionality of California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8. Nor did they feel he was ethically obligated to disclose his situation before ruling. I wrote: Continue reading
The Glendale Comfort Women Memorial
The large and respected law firm Mayer Brown has taken the ugly case of some Japanese-American clients who want the city of Glendale, California to remove a memorial to World War II “comfort women” from a public park. In doing so, and in the way it is proceeding, the firm has inspired harsh condemnation from two estimable legal commentators, both First Amendment champions: Marc Randazza, and Ken White. Their objections, which caused Randazza to call the firm “the least honorable law firm in the world,”and White to conclude, “This lawsuit is thoroughly contemptible. It should fail, and everyone involved should face severe social consequences,” are heartfelt, but, I think, misguided. Their argument, beside arguing that the lawsuit is frivolous, is best articulated by Randazza: Continue reading
Sen. Brown has the pulse of the public on this issue, and like the public, he’s ignorant.
Especially since politicians like Scott Brown keep making sure that they misunderstand.
In this week’s Massachusetts Senate debate between Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, Brown slammed the anti-corporate crusader, the self-styled intellectual catalyst for the Occupy Movement, for accepting $250,000 from the Travelers insurance company to help the company deny claims for asbestos poisoning. He said:
“You chose to side with one of the biggest corporations in the United States: Travelers Insurance. When you worked to prohibit people who got asbestos poisoning, and I hope all the asbestos union workers are watching right now. She denied, she helped Travelers deny those benefits for asbestos poisoning, made over $250,000 in an effort to protect big corporations….”
Brown is accurately stating the way most people look at lawyers and what they do. But he is absolutely mistaken. His characterization of what Warren did is incorrect, and his inference of hypocrisy is unfair. It is all the worse because he is a lawyer himself. If Senator Brown, as a lawyer, doesn’t understand what’s wrong with his accusation, he should. If he does know, then he is undercutting his own profession for political gain. [NOTE: The original version of the post incorrectly stated that Brown was not a lawyer. My thanks to Mass lawyer James Flood III for flagging the error.] Continue reading
John Adams defended the guys in red, and Paul Clement understands why.
Law firm King & Spalding announced Monday that it would no longer represent congressional Republicans regarding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the controversial 1996 legislation that defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman.. In response, the firm’s chief appellate lawyer, Paul Clement, who was handling the case, resigned from the firm.
In February, the Obama administration announced that its Justice Department would refuse to defend DOMA in a number of lawsuits, an unusual, controversial and troubling decision. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conceive of other federal laws another administration might decide to render dead letters by non-defense despite being duly passed by the people’s representatives. A government has an obligation to duly execute its laws or repeal them. The policy of the Administration regarding DOMA raised issues of governmental integrity quite separate from the provisions of the law itself. Continue reading