Mayor De Blasio, Mrs. De Blasio, And Rationalization #68: The Volunteer’s Dodge, Or “You Don’t Pay Me Enough To Be Ethical!”

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), an unapologetic social justice warrior and crypto-socialist, installed his wife, Chirlane McCray, as the executive director of  the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, NYC’s nonprofit foundation. Under the previous mayor, the Fund had raised tens of millions of dollars annually for a wide range of projects, from anti-poverty initiatives to Superstorm Sandy recovery. McCray cannot receive a salary for her job, though the mayor has complained bitterly about this. Nepotism is outlawed under the City Charter in Chapter 68 which forbids public servants using their positions “to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.”

Under the leadership of McCray,  fundraising for the Mayor’s Fund has stalled. In the Bloomberg years, the nonprofit raised an average of $32 million per year, while under Mrs. de Blasio’s stewardship  it has raised an average of $22 million annually, a third less. This may be explained in part by the fact that she often isn’t working at her job. She has attended fewer than half of the meetings of the Fund’s board, and spends just an hour each week on the foundation’s business. It is June, and the New York Times reports that she hasn’t  visited the Fund’s offices in 2018, and was largely absent in the latter half of 2017. As the fund’s revenues have dived, its expenses have soared 50% since she took over,  with the organization moved into bigger offices. The Fund also supports fewer projects.

Sniffs the Times in an editorial, “the Mayor’s Fund under Mr. de Blasio and Ms. McCray has done less with more.”

De Blasio, who has pretty much solidified his reputation as a jerk, defended his wife by saying that she had done “an extraordinary job,” insisting to critics that  “You’re missing what her work is about.”

Her work is about raising money, and she’s not doing that very well. As the Times says, the first rule of fund-raising is to show up.  Mrs. Mayor helpfully added,  “It’s not about who can raise the most money.” Wait, what? Has anyone explained to her what her job is?

Then de Blasio said this, thus causing the proverbial light bulb to go off in my head, as he perfectly illustrated a rationalization that has somehow missed inclusion on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List:

“She does all that for zero dollars a year.”

“All that” meaning “a crummy job.”

Say hello. Mr. Mayor,  to… Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Judge! (Plus An Important ProEthics Announcement…) [UPDATED!]

 

Judge Jack Robison,  a state district judge in Comal County, Texas, interrupted jury deliberations to announce that God had informed him that a woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex should be be found not guilty. Robisonapologized to jurors for the interruption, but explained “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.”  To their credit, the jury found Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of  trafficking anyway.

Mysteriously, 12 perfect pillars of salt were later discovered outside the courthouse.

Kidding!

Judge Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase, for which he deserves some credit. Says a local news source,  “Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.” COULD trigger? COULD TRIGGER??????

This, following the unethical sentencing performance by the judge in the Larry Nasser trial,  is the tipping point for me. Although I have an excellent and constantly updated judicial ethics seminar that I will customize for different jurisdictions (I will soon be adding, “Don’t take messages from God mid-trial to the Texas version, for example), I almost never have the opportunity to teach it. Judges, unlike lawyers, don’t have ethics requirements other that the local Codes of Judicial Conduct. They don’t have to take regular classes in judicial ethics either, and many of them—like,oh, just to pull a name out of the air, ROY MOORE–couldn’t tell a tenet of judicial ethics from a cross-eyed echidna.  Most judicial organizations don’t budget for ethics training.

Thus I am announcing, here and now, that henceforth my ethics training and consulting company ProEthics, LTD., will provide me, my judicial ethics course and the extensive materials it includes for any judicial group of any size anywhere in the country at no cost, save for my travel and, if necessary, lodging.

This will be offered as a public service throughout 2018, and we will evaluate the policy at the end of the year.

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UPDATE: This, from the ABA…

Few federal judges face consequences as a result of misconduct complaints, and few of the complaints become public, according to a CNN analysis.

CNN reviewed nearly 5,000 judicial orders related to misconduct complaints and found that the documents “are remarkably short on details.” Since 2006, fewer than 10 cases a year were referred to a special committee for a closer investigation, and in six of the past 11 years no judges were sanctioned for misconduct. In some high-profile cases, judges facing misconduct complaints retire, putting an end to the investigation and preserving access to their pensions, the CNN investigation found…

Ethics Dunce: The Maryland State Bar Association

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:

“Ethics opinions are MSBA work product: a benefit to members who pay their dues…An ethics opinion is a legal opinion about what it or is not permissible under the rules. If you want legal advice, pay for it. The “rules”, by the way, are published and are available to the public. As are the elements of negligence. Do you tell your clients for free how to prove their negligence cases?”

How’s that for a venal, snotty answer? In fact, there are no “hidden” laws or principles related to negligence, nor are the standards for what constitutes negligence and how it is proven in court only available for a fee. The legal ethics opinions, on the other hand, may be crucial to allowing non-lawyers  know when they are being victimized by unethical members of the Maryland bar. How convenient that the Bar hides these from the view of the group of citizens that have the most urgent need to know about them.

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Now THIS Is As Close To Genuinely Frivolous Lawsuit As You Are Likely To See…And Naturally, It Is An Attack On The President

Publicity stunt? Whatever would make you think this lawsuit is a publicity stunt???

As we have discussed here before, though we often complain of frivolous lawsuits,  even the worst law suits seldom meet the technical standard of what is “frivolous.”

The D.C. bar’s ethics rules state that…

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.

This provides what I sometimes call “stupid lawyer” protection, on the theory that a stupid lawyer may have a sincere belief that an absurd action has a chance of prevailing, thus avoiding the rule’s rock bottom standard for “frivolous.” The recently filed lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against President Trump and the local Trump hotel, however, may be that rarest of legal birds, the truly frivolous lawsuit.

The married couple that owns  the Cork Wine Bar in Washington claim that the Trump International Hotel and the  restaurants similarly located in the Old Post Office building have an illegal advantage over other nearby establishments, like theirs, because of the association with the President.  Essentially the law suit claims that it’s all so unfair.

In addition to the res ipsa loquitur factor, which is to say that the lawsuit screams abuse of process to harass the President, we also have these suspicious factors: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

"Hey, when you leave, will you ask the bar rep with the gun outside my office what a good job I did for you? I can get bonus credit!"

“Hey, when you leave, will you tell the bar rep with the gun outside my office what a good job I did for you? I can get bonus credit!”

Speaking before an audience at the American Law Institute, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor said that she advocated mandatory pro bono service ( that is, for no compensation) to poor citizens by all lawyers. “If I had my way, I would make pro bono service a requirement,” she said.

“I believe in forced labor.”

This is the quality of thought that we get on the highest court in the land, that must decided our most difficult, controversial and society-molding legal. This is what we end up with when a Justice is appointed in order to check off group identify boxes for “diversity” rather than on the basis of ability.

Sotomayor made the comment at the American Law Institute’s annual meeting in Washington, in response to a question from institute director Richard Revesz about the problem of improving access to low-cost and effective legal services for low-income individuals. I’m pretty sure the “forced labor” comment was delivered as a joke, but it looks terrible in print, and immediately drew a predictable response from conservative pundits. “YOU BELONG TO THE STATE” quipped Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds.
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Why Lawyers Should Work “For Good”

Pro bono legal work (short for pro bono publico, or “for the public good”) is when lawyers take on cases free of charge. Some lawyers—and you know who you are!—would say that the primary reason to take on pro bono cases is that membership in the Bar requires it. That’s compliance, however, driven by non-ethical considerations, not ethics. There are excellent reasons to work pro bono that have nothing to do with being able to check off mandatory hours, and everything to do with the crucial roles lawyers have a duty to fulfill in a free society.

Georgia attorney Dawn Levine compiled this list of  “The Top Eight Reasons to Take Pro Bono Cases;” I recommend the whole article. Her list, however, should be posted on the walls of every attorney’s office. It represents the best aspirations of an unfairly maligned profession. Here it is… Continue reading