Tag Archives: professionalism

KABOOM! Roy Moore’s Lawyer Just Made My Head Explode. Or As He Would Say, Just Made My Head Exploded

I hate early morning head explosions. Among other reasons, those bits of skull and brain ruin the taste of my coffee.

No, I don’t blame Trent Garman for representing a vile creepazoid like Roy Moore. Creepazoids have rights too, and should have access to trustworthy and competent counsel. My problem with Garman arises from those last four words. Lawyers as untrustworthy and incompetent as Garman, in my opinion (don’t sue me, Trent, it’s just my opinion that you’re an idiot; I can’t prove it, but I do think you did), shouldn’t be representing clients. Garman, in truth, needs to go back to the sixth grade.

Here is the letter Garman authored on Moore’s behalf. I’ll follow it with the stuff that blew my head; you don’t have to read the whole thing unless you’re into inflicting pain on yourself, like that albino monk in “The Da Vinci Code.”

If you do read the letter, you will note that Attorney Garman never learned that the possessive “its” has no apostrophe, and that he writes English like it is a second, and perhaps third, language. Here are the best, as in worst, examples of his professional writing:

 Your client’s organization has made and/or supported defaming statements. This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients. We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.

The second statement  actually says “This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients.” Diagram that for me. That head-scratcher is followed by “We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.”This isn’t even the worst example of Authentic Frontier Gibberish in the letter. This is:

Thus, do you know this clearly, yet significant difference which your client’s publication(s) have failed to distinguish. And the legal requirement that your client retract the stories, to include the details which clearly are false.

I can’t even decide what to bold on that one.

Disturbingly, we learn in Trent’s biography that he earned a Masters in Theology from Regent University and  translated two books of the Bible from Greek.  I can just imagine what that translation was like.

I’m not nit-picking a blog comment or a hasty tweet. Roy Moore is fighting for his professional life and reputation, and this is the best legal representation he can find? That letter is a professional product. Garrman is obligated to be competent and diligent, not to send the message far and wide that the former judge thinks that this is persuasive logic and deft prose. Do they not proofread at Garman & Liddon? Do they know what proof-reading is? Do they know what syntax, punctuation and grammar are? Coherence? Professionalism?

Shame on the Troy University and Birmingham School of Law for graduating this careless, inarticulate boob. Heck, no high school should graduate someone who can’t write a letter better than that. Shame on his high school too. Shame on his the Alabama Bar for giving him a license.(I would use words other than “shame,” just to reliev the monotony , but as I’m sure you understand, my vocabulary is affected when my brains are on the ceiling…)

The legal field’s dirty little secret is that lawyers who can’t write or articulate a coherent argument are not as rare as they should be, and they should be extinct.  Nonetheless they get fees from innocent clients who assume that these hacks are smart and skilled because they call themselves lawyers.

But Roy Moore called himself a judge, didn’t he?

Hmmmm…

Maybe this is what George Will calls “condign justice.”

______________________

Pointer: Red Ipsa Loquitur

 

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Quote Of The Week: The New York Times, Regarding Legal Ethics Dunce David Boies’s Ride On The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck

There are a lot of ethics issues, legal and otherwise, flying around in the shocking—this really is shocking—revelation that lawyer Al Gore’s Supreme Court lawyer (and loser) David Boies was working to help Harvey Weinstein intimidate and discredit the women who were preparing to accuse him of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

The New Yorker reports in an investigative reporting piece that the Boies firm was retained by Weinstein, and on his behalf hired Black Cube, an investigative company run by former Israeli intelligence agents to prevent the publication of abuse allegations by creating profiles on the targeted accusers, often using pretexting–that is, lies— to gain access to proprietary information. Black Cube’s work included psychological profiles and sexual histories of the potential Weinstein accusers. The engagement with Black Cube  was presumably run through Boies Schiller Flexner  to place the shady matter under attorney-client privilege.

David Boies personally signed the contract with Black Cube, which, according to the New Yorker, was to obtain ” intelligence which will help the Client’s—that is, Weinstein’s— efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book currently being written [that] includes harmful negative information on and about the Client.”

Did you see “Michel Clayton,” where George Clooney played a law firm’s “fixer”? That’s what Boies was doing here. “Fixing.” And fixing is a dirty business.

That “leading NY newspaper” was and is the New York Times, which, as we now know, was readying its own sensational story regarding the accusations against Weinstein.The New York Times was also a client of Boies Schiller Flexner, though on unrelated matters, hence the statement above. Unsurprisingly, the Times has sacked Boies and his boys.

[Aside: Here’s a lawyer ethics practice tip. If a client asks you to contract with a company called “Black Cube,” “CHAOS,’ “The Legion of Evil,” “The Black Hand,” or “Murder, Inc.”, just say no.]

Some ethics questions and answers: Continue reading

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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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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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