Morning Ethics Warm-Up: Last Day Before The Start Of The Baseball Season Changes Everything Edition

Good Morning!

1. The best explanation ever composed to explain why baseball helps keep us ethical, by preserving our ability to give a damn—-for in the end, the most important of the virtues, the one that makes all the others matter—is caring.

Roger Angell, from his 1975 essay “Agincourt and After,” about the ’75 World Series and Carlton Fisk’s iconic homerun in Game #6 (yes, I was there):

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look—I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring—caring deeply and passionately, really caring—which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naïveté—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

2.  Some Democrats are displaying integrity and patriotism...This morning’s Ethics Hero: Rep. Jim  Himes ( D-Ct), who disappointed MSNBC’s hack-fest Morning Joe by deploring his colleagues who are sorry the Special Counsel did not find collusion with Russia by the President. They  need to think, he told Joe and Mika, pointing out that he fact that a sitting President is not found to have traitorously conspires with a foreign power to pervert an election is cause for celebration, not regret.  Hey, do you think he reads Ethics Alarms? [Pointer: VinnyMick]

3. But most are not, especially this guy: Martha MacCallum  had Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her Fox News show last night. Along with Adam Schiff, he has been one of the worst offenders in asserting as fact, without evidence, that the President committed impeachable acts .  True to form, Swalwell told his host that nothing in the salacious and unverified dossier had been proven “not factual.” I am also hearing this Bizarro World legal standard being endorsed by some commenters and, naturally, the  Facebook Borg. In this country, people don’t have to prove themselves innocent, even people like Donald Trump, who seem especially ethics-impaired. Allegation,s rumors and accusations are not enough; in fact, they aren’t anything until they have been confirmed. The Steele Dossier is literally not anything, although it was used deceptively and probably illegally to justify spying on the Trump campaign. Continue reading

“The Strange Case of the Threatening Hypothetical”, Continued: The Verdict Is In!

The Victim

Lawrence Connell, the Widener School of Law criminal law professor placed on administrative leave for using the school Dean in a “violent scenario” to illustrate legal principles to his class, has given a revealing and clarifying interview to the National Association of Scholars website.

This section is most relevant to his current plight, and the fairness of complaints leveled against him by some of his students. It’s also about one of my favorite topics in criminal law, attempt law, which has a significant ethical component, as you will see. But the main point of interest is that includes one of the supposedly racist, sexist, threatening hypotheticals he used.

Q: Can you give me an example of a hypothetical you might have used in class, to which the students who complained might have been referring? Can you describe the context in which you would have used it? Continue reading

Ethics Lessons From a Missing “at”

An embarrassing story from Fairfax,Virginia yields several ethical truths.

A Virginia man facing a fine or worse for not stopping properly behind an unloading school bus got off scot free after it was discovered that he hadn’t broken any law—at least the way the law is printed in the statute books.

The law reads:

“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”

Got that? You break the law by not stopping a school bus that is already stopped. Continue reading

E-mails Aren’t Private? Oh-oh…

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the case of Rehberg v. Paulk that one who sends an e-mail has no “expectation of privacy” in its content, once it is sent to a third party—-and that third party can even be the internet service provider. Which means, in essence, that e-mails aren’t private any more, if this ruling stands.

Here you have a good example of how courts can re-define formal ethical standards on multiple planes with a few words. This means that one of the most influential Federal Courts has given the green light to any government agency or employer who chooses to read your e-mails. It may well be that lawyers who send documents containing confidential client information have breached their duty to protect confidences. It means that if your room-mate reads confidential messages on your laptop without your permission, the law says its your fault, not his.

This is the point where ethics, manners and the Golden Rule becomes more important than ever. The court case may change the law, and it may be legal to read other people’s e-mails without permission, but it’s still not right.

For an excellent scholarly dissent from the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling by Prof. Orrin Kerr, see his argument on the Volokh Conspiracy.

[Many thanks to Prof. Monroe Freedman whose post at the Legal Ethics Forum alerted me to both the case and Prof. Kerr’s critique.]