Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/8/2020: “Procrastinating To Delay Writing About Another Debate” Edition [CORRECTED]

Good morning.

Way, way too much ethics-related politics this past week. I keep getting complaints about all the political content, and it annoys me too, but I don’t know what kind of alternatives I have. Back in the sane days, the idea of a House Speaker planning on tearing up the official copy of the State of the Union speech would have been the stuff of Saturday Night Live…when SNL would make fun of Democrats, anyway. I’m trying to keep the politics to a minimum. I swear.

1.  The Astros cheating scandal, cont. Would you wonder about this answer? A.J. Hinch, the ex-Houston Astros manager who was fired and suspended by Major League Baseball for allowing an illegal sign-stealing scheme to be used by his players for the entire 2017 World Champion Astros season, finally sat down for an interview.   When he was asked whether Houston players had utilized buzzers in their uniforms to receive signsduring the 2019 season as some have claimed based on inconclusive evidence and rumors, Hinch only would answer, “The Commissioner’s Office did as thorough of an investigation as anyone could imagine was possible.”

Why not “No”? That was what reporters term a “non-denial denial.”

2. If they advised her to run her sick child through the washing machine and he drowned,  would that be their fault too? The death of a four-year-old boy named Najee is being blamed on an anti-vaxx Facebook group.

The boy had been diagnosed with the flu and the doctor had  prescribed Tamiflu. His mother sought advice from the Facebook group “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” on how to treat her son’s’ illness. The members told her to give the boy vitamins, botanicals, zinc, fruits and vegetables, and to skip the medicine.

“Ok perfect I’ll try that,” she responded. Later that night, Najee had a seizure and died. Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unprofessional Lawyer!

And juuuuust a bit uncivil, I’d say. I  may be wrong…

In a motion to dismiss an insurance law suit, Allstate’s lawyers revealed this remarkable conduct on the part of plaintiff’s attorney Christopher Hook in his communications during the case. According to the declaration of those attorneys in their motion, Hook said or wrote…

  • “Fuck you crooks. Eat a bowl of dicks.” (Declaration of Peter H. Klee, Ex. 1, p. 5)
  • “I’m going to let the long dick of the law fuck Allstate for all of us.” (Id., p. 7)
  • “Hey Klee you Cumstain the demand is now 302 million. Pay up fuckface.” (Id., p. 8)
  • “Peter when you are done felating your copy boy tell Allstate the demand is now 305 million.” (Id., p. 9)
  • “[Other Sheppard Mullin attorneys] may not be too smart but at least they have some fucking dignity and honor unlike you two limp dick mother fuckers.” (Id., p. 10)
  • “What is Wright going to do when he finds out Allstate is using people who are borderline retarded to adjust complex claims. That’s what I’m going to do. Demand increases tomorrow.” (Klee Decl., Ex. 1, p. 11)
  • “Anytime now faggot.” (Id., p. 13)
  • “I want my clients’ money gay boys.”

Continue reading

North Carolina’s Conflicted, Disloyal, Unethical Attorney General, Roy Cooper

A candidate masquerading as a lawyer...

A candidate masquerading as a lawyer…

Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s elected Attorney General, has so many conflicts of interest that he can’t credibly do his job in an ethical manner. Fortunately for him doing his job ethically seems to hold no interest for him.

To start with, he is an announced political opponent of the current Republican governor, Pat McCrory. This situation is not unique, but if an Attorney General is going to do his job ethically, for remember he is the state’s lawyer, he has to make an effort to put his political interests aside and not allow them to interfere with his duty to represent his client the state, whose voters have made McCrory its top decision-maker.

Cooper, however, isn’t making any such effort. House Bill 2, a state law passed last week that bars local governments from enacting nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community, is anathema to Cooper’s constituency, so he is refusing to defend it in court against a federal lawsuit. If he were a private attorney whose beliefs rendered it impossible for him to represent his client, Cooper would have to resign. Since he is elected, he need not do that, but he can’t actively interfere with his client’s legal needs either. His proper course under the legal ethics rules governing all lawyers would be to find an outside counsel to do his job in this case, since he is incapable of doing it, and to defend the law.

Instead, Cooper is actively undermining his client’s legitimate objectives.  Cooper said in a news conference that the law is a “national embarrassment” and it “will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.” That’s the candidate talking, not the state’s lawyer, and thus the state’s lawyer is engaged in a bright-line breach of loyalty by talking like that in public. His duty, and his only ethical option, is to shut up. He may not be able to support his client’s objectives, but he absolutely must not impede them.

Cooper has even gone beyond that ethical violation to a massive conflict of interest breach. Instead of defending McCrory, the Board of Governors and the others being sued in the federal lawsuit, Cooper has announced that he will defend the two LGBT people and the lesbian professor bringing the lawsuit against the state! Continue reading

The Legal Profession’s Muddled Standard For “Fitness To Practice”

OK, he has a temper, but hire him as your lawyer, and you can trust him with your life!

I confess: my profession’s standard for discipline bewilders me, and leads me to believe that nobody really knows what kind of conduct by a lawyer should dictate that he or she should be kicked out of the profession. I was reminded of this when I read a report about a former associate at a large New York law firm whose license was suspended for three years because he physically abused his girlfriend. A hearing panel had recommended a 60 day suspension, but the Appeals Court decided on three years.

Here is the basic rule regarding misconduct by lawyers, from the ABA’s Model Rules:

Maintaining The Integrity Of The Profession

Rule 8.4  Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;

(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;

(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;

(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or

(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.

Tell me: which provision did the brutal lawyer violate? Continue reading