Tag Archives: presumption of innocence

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2019: Icky, Creepy, And Wrong

Good Afternoon!

Working today to train a Clarence Darrow understudy for my Darrow legal ethics seminars that my original Clarence, the estimable Paul Morella, can’t fit into his schedule. I’ll be doing one such seminar in New Jersey this month. You can never have enough Clarence Darrows!

1. On the matter of corporations caving to social media mobs..here’s something completely stupid. Earlier this winter, Delta Air Lines distributed cocktail napkins with message, “Be a little old school,” in small print on the napkin, advertising Diet Coke. “Write down your number & give it to your plane crush. You never know …” There was a space on the napkin where a passenger could write down his or her name and another space for their number. The larger print said, “because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey,” again, “… you never know.”

The harmless stunt was condemned by some flyers on social media as “creepy,” and that was enough to spark a dual company grovel.  “We rotate Coke products regularly as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one. We are sorry for that and began removing the napkins from our aircraft in January,” Delta told USA Today in a statement. Coca-Cola added: “We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended. We worked with our partners at Delta to begin removing the napkins last month and are replacing them with other designs.”

I think it’s creepy that I often find myself sitting next to someone on a plane who is so close I can count his or her moles, and that neither of us will say a word to each other  for hours. I can’t fault Delta and Coke for trying to break the ice and encourage a more social atmosphere on planes, especially since the air travel experience has become increasingly grim and uncomfortable. I know more than one couple who owe their long marriage to a number scrawled on an airplane napkin. (Full disclosure: I once wrote a message to an attractive young  flight attendant who was especially effervescent. She smiled, and I never heard a word from her.)

All attempts at human contact with strangers aren’t harassment.

2. Ew. Did the National Enquirer try to blackmail Jeff Bezos? It sure sounds like it. Bezos says that the tabloid threatened to publish “dick pics” from his social media output if he didn’t get his paper, the Washington Post, to back off from its accusation that the Enquirer’s coverage of the nasty Bezos divorce was based on political animus rather than good ol’ old-fashioned tabloid sleeziness. You can read the Bezos blog post here.

The theory seems to be that the Enquirer is doing the bidding of President Trump, Saudi Arabia, or someone or something equally nefarious. And yes, the head of the Enquirer’s publishing outfit really is named “Pecker,” and it has nothing to do with the Bezos junk shot. Bezos is apparently releasing the Weiner-like photos someone hacked from his account to foil the extortion attempt. Let’s see: a) Nothing could lower my opinion of the National Enquirer. b) Ethics Alarms subscribes to the Naked VIP Principle, which is that if you are a public figure and send pictures of Mr. Wiggly to ANYONE over the internet, you deserve no sympathy for anything unpleasant that happens to you as a result.

I don’t care if “everybody does it’ (and if everybody really is taking crotch selfies and mailing them to friends and strangers, I don’t belong on this planet any more), if you do this, I don’t want to have anything to do with you.

3. This is useful for things like the Green New Deal. From the National Review, Williamson’s First Law. “Everything is simple if you don’t know a fucking thing about it.”

Perfect.

4.Now THIS is rejecting the presumption of innocence. Again: the position here is that Justin Fiarfax cannot do his job while under suspicion of serial rape allegations from named accusers willing to testify under oath, and should voluntarily step down. Duke, however, is asking him to leave a board using the false principle of guilty until proven innocent and “believe all accusers” standards.

“I am writing to let you know that Justin Fairfax will be asked to step down from the Sanford School Board of Visitors pending the resolution of the serious and deeply distressing allegations that have been made against him,” Dean Judith Kelley wrote in an email  to Sanford staff and students. “Sexual assault is abhorrent and unfortunately can occur right around us. I urge everyone to take survivors of sexual assault seriously, and to help build an environment that is safe and supportive for everyone,” she added.

Wrong. His presence does not make anyone “unsafe” because an unproven accusation has been made. Nor is it not taking sexual assault seriously to refuse to use a mere accusation to strip an accused man of his positions and honors. The board membership is mostly honorific. Duke is taking sides where it should be neutral. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Quiz: The Improper Jury Instruction

At least a dozen Pennsylvania murder convictions may be reversed because Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes included this description of reasonable doubt to instruct her juries:

“Each one of you has someone in your life who’s absolutely precious to you. If you were told by your precious one’s physician that they had a life-threatening condition and that the only known protocol or the best protocol for that condition was an experimental surgery, you’re very likely going to ask for a second opinion. You may even ask for a third opinion. You’re probably going to research the condition, research the protocol. What’s the surgery about? How does it work? You’re going to do everything you can to get as much information as you can. You’re going to call everybody you know in medicine: What do you know? What have you heard? Tell me where to go. But at some point the question will be called. If you go forward, it’s not because you have moved beyond all doubt. There are no guarantees. If you go forward, it is because you have moved beyond all reasonable doubt.”

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh ordered a new trial for a man convicted following this instruction, and Hughes may have used it in 50 cases.

This is why I am making this an ethics quiz: I have no idea why the instruction is wrong, or confusing. I’ve read McHugh’s opinion, and I still don’t understand what the alleged problem is, unless this judge just doesn’t want to anyone convicted. (He’s an Obama appointment, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with anything, for Chief Justice Roberts tells us so). The decision is here, and this the judge’s reasoning: Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Quizzes

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/18: “The Show Must Go On” Edition

Here we are.

After a brief recovery Friday the 16th, an early morning seminar for D.C. Bar admittees yesterday crashed me entirely, which is why there were no posts. I almost didn’t make it to the end of the program, which surprised and alarmed me; the last few minutes were excruciating. But I have never cancelled a seminar, and when I do, it will be because my metaphorical chips are about to be cashed. Those who know my theatrical history will recall that I damaged my lungs in college staging and performing a professional dinner theater show six days a week (during final exams)  while I was suffering from a serious bronchitis attack; that I refused to cancel in-door performances of The American Century Theater (RIP) during snow storms, and one out-door performance during an electrical storm. Not being able to do my job and fulfill my responsibilities due to illness or injury absolutely crushes me (like many of my obsessions, this one is partially Dad’s fault: he refused to take sick days), and keeping Ethics Alarms current is the least burdensome of my responsibilities.

Once again, I apologize.

1. More apologies, Arlington High School Dept.: My ill-timed illness is also keeping me away from my 50th high school class reunion. I intended to make it, and wanted to make it: I had a wonderful time in high school, and met many of the best people I have ever known while I was there. Past reunions have been somewhat depressing for me: seeing people I remember vividly as young, vital and full of excitement for the future looking as old as they are and often feeling defeated by life makes me feel old, and the inevitable sad cases who feel he or she has to boast about successes and wonderful kids caused me stress as I barely controlled the urge to tell them off. Nonetheless, I regard attendance at such milestones as an obligation to the past, a demonstration of respect for where we have come from and the people and institutions that got us to where we are. And, of course, the more old friends who attend, the better the experience is for everyone. I wish there was a way to let my classmates know that I still think about them and care about them. This blog isn’t it.

2. Who made bad losers in politics respectable? When public trust in democratic institutions reached some yet-to-be-determined tipping point, a democracy is finished. Once, not too long ago, the tradition in American politics was that the defeated candidate—the office didn’t matter, nor did the margin of victory—conceded the race in a timely fashion, congratulated his or her opponent, and vowed to help and assist the victor as much as possible.  This not only modeled graciousness and good sportsmanship, but also protected the system. Now every election shows this healthy model being further pushed into cultural obscurity, with a new low being established in Georgia last week, when the loser of the governor’s race, Stacey Abrams, blamed her loss on a failure of democracy, refused to officially concede while admitting that she had lost, and announced a lawsuit alleging that Governor-Elect Brian Kemp and Republicans had tampered with the election without offering any proof or evidence. Well, maybe this wasn’t the new low; it would be hard to top Roy Moore.

3. The new Title IX rules. The Education Department finally released new guidance on how  Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex and gender-based discrimination in public schools and colleges, should be enforced. This was desperately needed after the Obama Administration had muddled and corrupted the process with blatant gender bias and its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, creating a culture that undermined free expression and due process on college campuses and due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights

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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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Professions

Conclusion: If #MeToo Has No Integrity, Then It Is Doomed, And Deserves To Be

When the #MeToo movement emerged, the idea appeared to be that women (and men!) should speak out about sexual assault and sexual harassment, that powerful people should not feel entitled to take physical liberties with others, and that the culture needed to unequivocally and clearly condemn such conduct. Like most abstract concepts, it sounded good in theory, until—

—the question about what constituted sexual assault and harassment remained unanswered, because in so many cases it is a matter of perception and perspective.

—basic due process and the presumption of innocence were ignored, minimized, or jettisoned entirely, turning the accused into victims themselves

—Democrats sought to weaponized the movement politically, raising questions about motive, equal justice, and bias, and turning what should have been a bi-partisan movement into a cynical partisan one.

—The “women must be believed” mantra, discriminatory, unjust and ridiculous on its face, became part of the narrative and burst into open misandry and outrageous double standards.

Then the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck collided head-on with the Brett Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck, and here we are among ethical and cultural carnage.

Good job, everybody!

Now here’s where we are: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/14/18…Stretching the Truth: Fake Accusations, Fake Supreme Court News, Fake Fake Doctors

Good Morning!

1.Who Could Have Predicted That Black Men Would Identify With Brett Kavanaugh?,cont. From the New York Times yesterday:

A white woman who called police after claiming that a young black boy touched her behind in a Brooklyn deli drew a storm of ridicule and criticism on social media, and late Friday she made a public apology to the child.

Critics characterized the incident as the latest example of a hypersensitive white person calling the police to report black people for dubious reasons. Many detractors imputed racist motives to the woman, Teresa Klein.

She was quickly labeled “Cornerstore Caroline” by Jason Littlejohn, 37, a lifelong Flatbush resident who recorded the commotion Wednesday outside the Sahara Deli Market on Albemarle Road. Littlejohn’s Facebook recording of the incident had been viewed 4 million times by Friday evening.

“I was just sexually assaulted by a child,” Klein is heard saying on the video as she was on the phone with the police. The boy, who is about 9, and another child burst into tears outside the store as bystanders confronted Klein about the incident. “The son grabbed my ass and she decided to yell at me,” Klein continued in the video, referring to his mother. The video was first reported by The New York Post.

I just don’t think the Left thought through this “believe all women who claim to be victims” bit. And I’m still confused about the rules. You have to believe a white woman who accuses a white high school kid of sexual assault if she remembers it 30 years later, but you don’t have to believe a white woman who accuses an even younger kid immediately, if he’s black? Does it matter if she’s black? If the accused was a white high school kid, then would everyone have to believe her?

2. Newton’s Third Law! From the Huffington Post: 

Minutes after an event at a Manhattan Republican club meant to celebrate violence against leftists, attendees belonging to a proto-fascist, pro-Trump street gang reportedly pummeled three people on the sidewalk in Manhattan’s Upper East Side while shouting homophobic slurs.

Footage posted online by video journalist Sandi Bachom shows a group of men who appear to be Proud Boys — a misogynistic and anti-Muslim fraternity known for committing acts of political violence across the country — kicking and punching three apparent anti-fascist protesters as they lay prone on the sidewalk.

“Do you feel brave now, faggot?” one of the attackers yelled, according to Bachom and another journalist, photographer Shay Horse. Another video shows multiple attackers yelling “faggot.”

HuffPo, being smear-meisters, calls the group “Pro-Trump” in its headline. I don’t recall any news source calling the antifa a “pro-Obama group” when it was running amuck punching people on Inauguration Day. Speaking of the antifa,  here’s a tweet from a Portland journalist from October 8: Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Social Media, U.S. Society

From The “Bias Makes You Stupid Files”: Who Could Have Predicted That Black Men Would Identify With Brett Kavanaugh?

Kanye West may be crazy, but he isn’t wrong.

Writes the former race-baiting ESPN reporter Jamele Hill in The Atlantic:

On Tuesday night, I was in an auditorium with 100 black men in the city of Baltimore, when the subject pivoted to Brett Kavanaugh. I expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment. Instead, I encountered sympathy. One man stood up and asked, passionately, “What happened to due process?” He was met with a smattering of applause, and an array of head nods.

Why did Hill expect a group that  has historically been the victim of “believe the white woman” more than anyone to regret the failure of the desperation hit on the SCOTUS nominee using the banneer of #meToo waving over an unsupported accuser? Why did the Democrats? It’s pure bias: they assume that any group in their base automatically approves of their “ends justifies the means” tactics, no matter what basic principles of justice or democracy  have to be sacrificed. I heard about Hill’s bias-driven myopia before I read the whole article, and immediately wondered what Brian Banks, the promising high school football player whose life was upended when a jury believed his false accuser, Wanetta Gibson, would think of the argument that Kavanaugh’s appointment should be forfeit because a single accuser “must be believed.” As it turns out, Hill thought about Banks too, and even approached him.

I reached out to Banks and asked whether he had any thoughts about this solidarity some black men seem to feel with Kavanaugh, but he politely declined to comment. I can’t say that I blame him, since there’s probably nothing Banks could say that wouldn’t be interpreted as being unsympathetic toward victims.

Interpreted by who? I’m sympathetic toward victims, but like Banks, I suspect, I’m not sympathetic with those who want to ruin the lives of men, be they a an African American high school athlete or a judge with an impeccable personal and professional record as an adult, by discarding the principles of due process, equal justice, and presumption of innocence. Nobody can say that Blasey-Ford is a victim any more than the women who got Emmet Till killed was a victim. Democrats wanted her to be a victim, and that was the sole basis for her to be believed more than the man she accused. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights