Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2019: The Greatest Morning Warm-Up Ever Blogged!

The movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was far from the “Greatest Movie Ever Made,” as the Duke’s casting as a Roman soldier demonstrated vividly.

OK, not really, but it better be good after yesterday’s potpourri never made it off the launch pad due to a series of unfortunate events. I’m using “The Greatest Legal Ethics Seminar Ever Taught!” as a title for an upcoming program I’m writing now, so the rhetoric is on my mind. My teaching partner complained that the title really puts the pressure on us to be outstanding. And that’s the point…

1. Harvard’s new President punts. Of course. The Harvard alumni magazine this month was notably light on criticism of the Ronald Sullivan fiasco, with only two critical letters on the topic, one of which made the suggestion that it might be a “conflict of interest” for someone who is defending a #MeToo villain to also serve as a residential faculty member (what was previously called a “House Master,” but that triggered some delicate students who felt it evoked slave-holders. No really. I’m serious. I don’t make this stuff up. Organizations capitulate to these complaints now, like Major League Baseball changing the name of the “Disabled List” because disabled rights activists complained). It is assuredly NOT a conflict of interest, though, by any definition but an erroneous one.

Deeper in the magazine, we learn that new President of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, was asked during a faculty meeting about his views on the episode. His response was essentially a Harvard version of Ralph Kramden’s immortal “huminhuminahumina” when “The Honyemooners” hero had no explanation for some fiasco of his own engineering. Bacow said he would respect “the locus of authority,” meaning College Dean Rakesh Khuratna, who fired Sullivan after joining in student protests over the law professor and lawyer doing exactly what lawyers are supposed to do.

So now we know that, not for the first time, Harvard is being led by a weenie. What should he have said?  How about “I am firing Dean Khuratna, and offering Prof. Sullivan his position back. Any Winthrop House students who feel  “unsafe” are welcome to transfer to Yale”?

Most news media gave inadequate coverage to this story, and none, in my view, sufficiently condemned the university’s actions or the un-American values they represent. At least the New York Times is keeping the episode before its readers by publishing an op-ed by Sullivan titled Why Harvard Was Wrong to Make Me Step Down.”

2. Insuring the life of a son in peril. Is this unethical somehow? It honestly never occurred to me. When I had to give a speech in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most dangerous cites on Earth, my wife tried to take out a policy on my life with her as the beneficiary. I thought it was a good and prudent idea. But in Phillip Galane’s “Social Q’s” advice column, a son writes that he is still angry, decades later, that his late father did this , writing in part, Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/23/19: War, Law, Silly Names And Silly Movies

Hi!

1  Every President should be hesitant to go to war.  It is amusing watching Democrats and the news media (B.I.R.M.*) trying to thread the needle and criticize the President for pulling back on the decision to retaliate against Iran with a military response, when the Left virtually always protests military action of any kind. It is particularly amusing since the whole Iran confrontation exposes how irresponsible, dishonest, cynical, and cowardly the “solution” to the Iran problem was that President Obama secretly engineered: the “Let’s give Iran billions of dollars back to cause terrorism and chaos throughout the world in exchange for a promise not to nuke Israel until I’m rich, retired, and can’t be expected to do anything about it” plan.

2. About the Massie case. Nobody took the bait and wrote about the Massie Trial in last week’s open forum, so allow me to explain why it’s relevant.

The legal and academic world is still reeling from Harvard’s punishing law school professor Ronald Sullivan for representing Harvey Weinstein, who, the supposedly educated student citizens of Harvard have apparently been taught to believe, doesn’t have a right to a fair trial and a zealous legal defense. In the Massie case, Clarence Darrow  came out of retirement in 1932 to defend Grace Fortescue, a rich Southern heiress who had traveled to Hawaii in order to seek justice for her wild and unreliable daughter, who accused five Hawaiian men of raping her. The trial resulted in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury,  ramping  up racial tensions between whites and native Hawaiians. Fortescue paid to have one of the native Hawaiians her daughter accused, Joe Kahahawa , kidnapped and brought to her home in Honolulu, where he was tortured and shot. Grace Fortescue, Thomas Massie, and Edward Lord. Deacon Jones were arrested at the scene and charged with murder. Darrow, 74 and long absent from the courtroom, agreed to defend Grace even though she was obviously guilty, a racist, and the kind of rich, privileged bully that he has spent his career opposing.

L to R: Clarence Darrow, Edward Lord, Deacon Jones, Sheriff Ross, Grace Fortescue, Thalia Massie, Thomas Massie, and George Leisure

Why would he do it? Two reasons, said Darrow: he had been wiped out by the Great Depression and needed the money (he was paid $30,000) and he had always wanted to visit Hawaii. Darrow, you see, knew that every defendant deserved the best possible defense, even rich racist murderers. Continue reading

And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Ann Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Ann Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

I Hereby Repudiate My Undergraduate Degree, As My Alma Mater Has Rendered It A Symbol Of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, And Liberal Fascism

No, I’m not kidding.

I probably should have done this much earlier, as when Harvard announced that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s. I would also have been justified in tearing up my alumni card when the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was their choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. An analogous policy would punish students for supporting Republican candidates, which I now realize may be Harvard’s next step.

When that off-campus club policy was announced (students are suing, and GOOD), I rationalized that this was a short-term problem resulting from a regrettable (and soon departing)  college President, feminist Drew Faust, who regarded enforcing progressive agenda items at metaphorical swordpoint as a greater priority than such minor matters as giving students the liberal education they were paying for. Now I see that it was the canary dying in the mineshaft. How I wish I had been giving a lot of money to Harvard (which needs money like Hawaii needs sunshine) so I could now stop.

This is the final straw:

Harvard’s Dean of the College, Rakesh Khurana, has announced that he is firing Winthrop House faculty dean, Ronald Sullivan, because he is defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution, and the Winthrop House students are upset about it, poor dears. (I wrote about this controversy here.)

Also upset is Dean Khurana, who, shockingly, joined a sit-in in protest of a Harvard lawyer doing exactly what ethical lawyers are supposed to do: give all citizens access to the best legal representation possible. To be clear about how serious this is, by firing Sullivan, Harvard is endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values, and even more revolting for an alleged “prestige institution of higher learning”, this is really, really stupid.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. I’ll publish this for the umpteenth time, from the Massachusetts Bars’ ethics rules… Continue reading

I Expect Non-Lawyers And Journalists To Misunderstand This Basic Legal Ethics Principle….But HARVARD LAW SCHOOL?

Kaboom.

This is a repeat issue, so I could make this short and link to the previous Ethics Alarms post on this annoying subject, or  here, when I defended Hillary Clinton when she was being called a hypocrite for once defending  a child rapist, or maybe the post titled,  No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes.or this post, when liberal icon and former Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe was representing a coal company. I have vowed, however, that if I accomplish nothing else with this blog, I will do my best to put a stake through the ignorant and destructive idea that lawyers only represent clients they agree with, admire, or personally support. Here its is again, the ABA rule that is quoted somewhere in every jurisdiction’s attorney conduct regulations. Let’s do it really big this time:

ABA Model Rule 1.2(b): “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”

Got that? Memorize it Print it out and carry it in your wallet, and hand it to your ignorant loud-mouth family member who complains about those scum-bag lawyers who represent bad people. Post it on social media and  in online comment sections where people are bloviating about the same. idiotic misconception.

What we can do about Harvard, however, I just don’t know. You know what they say, “Get woke, lose all respect and credibility as a trustworthy advocate for civil rights and the Rule of Law.” Okay, I’m going to have to work on that… Continue reading