Tag Archives: professionalism

The Tangled Ethics Of Men, Women, Sexual Harassment,Sexual Discrimination, Romance, Common Sense, And “Vive La différence!”

Mike Pence would not have a business dinner with Debrahlee Lorenzana. What’s wrong with him?

Many years ago I did a sexual harassment seminar for a New York law firm. Afterwards, the partner responsible for handling the firm’s EEOC and workplace matters told me that my ethics-based approach to the topic wasn’t sufficiently rigorous, since he believed that innocent contact between employees in the firm could spawn lawsuits. “I refuse to travel with female associates,” he told me. “I can’t be sure what they will think is harassment.”

“Wait,” I asked. “So because you’re afraid of being accused unjustly of sexual harassment, you engage in sexual discrimination?”

He sputtered something and left to arrange his sock drawer.

I think of this conversation often. I thought of it when Vice-President Mike Pence was reported as saying in 2002  that he never had a meal with a woman who was not his wife, and was promptly savaged for it by feminists and the news media. Because the new rules and practices of the workplace have developed amid contradictions and rigid doctrine rather than with attention to whether they were workable or not, Pence and that hypocritical lawyer years ago are both victims and victimizers. It is often impossible to know what ethical workplace conduct is.

The New York Times was happy to bash Pence for his candor as part of a requirement of membership in “the resistance,” but then, as is often the case for the schizoid paper, later competently and objectively examined the issue away from politics. A Morning Consult poll conducted for the paper  found that there is widespread fear of one-on-one situations, male-female interactions in the workplace.  About 25% think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Almost 2/3  say it is prudent to be especially wary and sensitive around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse. Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Quiz: The Bank Robber Professor

A few weeks ago the Washington Post published the unusual story of  Shon Hopwood, a member of the D.C. Bar and  a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center. He spent 11 years in federal prison for robbing banks n Nebraska—that’s banks, plural—became a jailhouse “lawyer,” got  a scholarship to law school, was somehow approved as meeting the character provisions required for bar membership, and now amuses his Georgetown law students with tales about how when he played basketball in federal prison, he had to carry a shank in case his team started to lose.

You should read his story, which I’m sure will enrich Hopwood in  a movie deal, if it hasn’t already, but you shouldn’t have to read it before you answer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Should a convicted bank robber be teaching law students?

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Idiot Ethics: A Brief Note

I used the term “idiot” three times in the recent post about Alex Jones. Periodically I get reprimands from commenters who chide Ethics Alarms for engaging in “ad hominem” attacks when it refers to a public figure as “an idiot.” IMy response is always the same: diagnosing someone as an idiot who behaves idiotically is not an “ad hominem attack.” Ad hominem means that one attacks a legitimate argument by attacking the arguer instead: “That must be wrong, because he’s an idiot!”  In the case of Jones, my point was very different: believing that John Podesta, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, would be running a sex ring out of a pizza place is per se idiotic, and it requires an idiot, like Alex Jones, to take such a story seriously. I’ll stand by that assessment.

Still you don’t read many pundits, and certainly no ethicists, who use that term, or related ones like dolt, dummy, moron and cretin. Is it unprofessional? It certainly isn’t common practice for professionals, though there are exceptions: the late Justice Scalia was not above calling out idiocy by name. I will even use the term occasionally in my ethics seminars, for example, to describe the lawyer who produced a hand grenade during his closing argument, and pulled the pin. Is this unfair? I don’t think so. Nor is it unfair to call the lawyer an idiot who recently had his pants burst into flame mid-argument to bolster his defense that his client didn’t deliberately set his car won fire, but that it spontaneously combusted.

Non-idiots don’t do things like that. If he doesn’t know he’s an idiot, someone needs to tell him.

Calling someone an idiot is an insult, obviously, and is a breach of civility. Civility, however, does not and should not interfere with the truth. Choosing to properly designate a prominent idiot as one is a public service, and to the more self-aware idiots, a kindness as well. Great damage can be prevented by making it absolutely unambiguously clear that someone is an idiot, as in “not smart, responsible, wise or educated enough to be trusted in his opinions or competence.”

Once upon a time, it was very rare for true idiots to rise to prominence and influence in the United States.  It was just too hard, and nobody was that lucky. This provided a great advantage over cultures where power and influence were conferred by birth.  Idiot kings and emperors were never in short supply. John Adams made the point that in America, the aristocracy, whose role in other nations was to stand as role models and typify the best of society, was uniquely created by ability, achievement, talent and intelligence. (John, a lawyer, naturally thought that lawyers fit the bill.) The bold concept behind American democracy was 1) that public education and civic duty would compel the citizenry to accept the responsibility of being capable of self-government, and that the “wisdom of crowds” would do the rest. Idiots literally could not rise to high office. They so obviously contrasted with the typical public servants that their careers fizzled out before the White House was within view. Stupid journalists, scholars, professionals and authors were also rare; indeed, it was once hard to find an idiot with a high school diploma, much less with an advanced degree. Continue reading

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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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No, A Democratic Senator Attending A Party In Honor Of A Trump Appointee He Opposed Isn’t “Hypocrisy”…It’s Called “Statesmanship,” “Sportsmanship,” And “Professionalism”

To be fair, we see so little of either now that many may no longer be able to recognize the two traits any more.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news source wrote,

A Democratic senator who couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross still attended a ritzy cocktail party welcoming him to the nation’s capital.On Wednesday, Georgetown socialite and Washington Post editor Lally Weymouth, daughter of the paper’s former publisher, Katherine Graham, hosted a “Welcome to Washington, D.C.” party for Ross at the Georgetown mansion of former Republican diplomat C. Boyden Gray. West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin attended that party, according to Politico Playbook, rubbing shoulders with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Manchin’s attendance marked an about-face for the Democrat, who attempted to block Ross’s cabinet appointment.

In February, Manchin said he could not “in good conscience … give Wilbur Ross a promotion.” The senator credited Ross’s career as a billionaire investor—which earned him the nickname ” King of Bankruptcy”—and his involvement in the West Virginia mining industry for his decision to oppose the appointment along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Following my extensive vetting, meeting with him, watching his nomination and reaching out to West Virginians who have worked with him directly, I cannot in good conscience look the families of the fallen Sago miners or the Weirton Steel workers who lost their jobs in the eye knowing I voted to give Wilbur Ross a promotion,” Manchin said in a statement at the time….

Steven Law, president of the GOP Senate Leadership Fund, criticized his attendance as a sign of “Washington hypocrisy.” “Apparently Joe Manchin’s ‘good conscience’ waits in the car while he stops in for cocktails on the Washington D.C. party circuit,” Law said in a statement. “Senate Leadership Manchin thinks he can fool West Virginia voters with his Washington hypocrisy, but we believe they are catching on to Manchin’s worn-out act.”

So it was principled, then, for Rep. John Lewis to boycott President Trump’s inauguration? It’s principled, then, for Democrats to refuse to respect the office of the President, because they didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Is that what Steven Law is saying?

Do Republicans think before they make statements like this? Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Gee, Would It Really Have Been So Hard For Democrats And The News Media To Just …Wow.”

Spartan (“Sparty” to her friends) is a D.C. area lawyer  and professional woman, was well as the mother of girls. Thus her observations on the travails of women in the Halls of Power have special interest.

Here is Spartan’s “Comment of the Day” on post,  Gee, Would It Really Have Been So Hard For Democrats And The News Media To Just To Admit That Rep. Richmond’s ‘The President’s Female Counselor Looks Like She’s Used To Giving Blow-jobs’ Joke Was Wrong, Period? Apparently So. Wow:

I am going to criticize Ms. Conway for a minute, and I hope you all bear with me.

I am a career woman and, in fact, am the breadwinner for my family. Jack’s sister and I probably could exchange endless stories about the challenges of being a successful white collar female. I accept this as a fact in my life and recognize that I am held to a different standard without being bitter or loud about it. I did not wear red and stay home today despite the protest. In fact, I was supposed to be out of the office for meetings all day but deliberately came into the office so there would not be a presumption that I was taking part. I do not wear low cut dresses or stiletto heels. I do not sleep around the office — and never have. Continue reading

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Oh, Great…CNN’s Don Lemon Was Stinking Drunk On The Air Again This Year

How professional.

Clearly, the news media, after its disgraceful performance in 2016, is determined to win back the public’s trust.

I have nothing to add to last year’s post about this. Here’s the main point…

Naturally, lots of tweeters and bloggers thought this was just hilarious and endearing, just as they would probably react with admiration if President Obama turned up stoned for his State of the Union address. The fact that too many Americans are juvenile dummies who don’t care about proper deportment, responsibility and professionalism, and who think impairment is cool, doesn’t excuse a supposed news network from validating their stupidity, or allowing an anchor to debase journalism and to send the message that being smashed on the job is acceptable. Drunks on the job cost businesses millions and occasionally get people killed. Being drunk on the job is always wrong, unless you are a paid drunk. I don’t know any of those.

It does not mitigate this display of vulgarity and lack of responsibility by CNN’s star talking head that he decided to toss all restraint and proper on-the-air conduct to the winds the second he had a colorable excuse. CNN is as irresponsible as Lemon: once he started misbehaving and embarrassing the network (assuming they know what embarrassment in broadcast journalism is, which I now doubt), someone should have ordered him off the air….An ethical news organization would at least suspend Lemon and require an on-air apology. An ethical journalist would, in fact, apologize without being forced. But an ethical journalist wouldn’t get bombed on the job.

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