Tag Archives: rules

Ethics Hypothetical: Rules, Compassion, Integrity, Fairness, And A Looming Race Card

clock2

[The hypothetical is inspired by two recent events I witnessed in the past week.]

Preface: The state requires new bar admittees to take a one-day course covering the basics of practicing law in the jurisdiction—how the courts work, special procedural rules, unique aspects of local practice, horror stories, the works. They must complete the course or they can’t be certified, and the court-ordered series of lectures and presentations is held only once a month.

A company runs the mandatory curriculum under contract to the state, and is required to confirm in writing to the courts that its requirement have been fulfilled. One key requirement is that every attendee must be present for every minute of the presentations, except for brief emergencies, like using the rest rooms. The course administrators carefully monitor attendance. The published description of the course directs that once the course begins, theoretically at 9 am sharp, no late-comers will be admitted.

As you might imagine, missing the session can be quite a hardship, as participants often live and work in other jurisdictions.

The Event: It is 9:08 am on the day of the program, and the introductory video that begins the orientation is almost finished. It consists of interviews with members of the bar about the benefits of practicing in the state, the importance of ethical practice, etc: to say it is not substantive is an understatement. Literally nothing that is said and shown in the video is anything but boilerplate.

A young man, sweating profusely, bursts in the door, looking unhappy and desperate. “I’m sorry I’m sorry!” he babbles. He says that he had to drive up from a neighboring state and had an accident. “Can I still get in?” he pleads.

The male staffer responsible for the session chats briefly with an associate. The program was late starting, and this late arrival will miss nothing if he goes in now. “All right,” the honcho says as the young man heaves a sigh of relief. “I shouldn’t do this, but you haven’t missed anything.” As he goes into the auditorium, one can here the opening remarks of the first speaker, a judge. It is now 9:12 am, and another young man bursts through the door on a dead run. “My crazy cabbie’s been driving me all over the city for an hour!” he shouts. “I flew in last night from Arizona! Please, please, don’t make me do this again…I barely was able to afford this trip.” The administrator is wondering if he had seen the previous guy go into the auditorium. He’s heard this judge’s spiel many times: all that has been missed, to be honest, are a few (lame) jokes. “All right, all right, get in there quick!” he tells the new supplicant. “I’ll finish your paperwork during the break!” The kid looks like he’s going to cry, he’s so relieved.

I’m there, watching this (I’m on the program) and say to the administrator, “I bet this happens every time.” He says, “It does. I know that nobody misses anything that isn’t in the printed materials until 9:15, so it’s a hard stop after that.”

And another late arrival bursts through the door. It’s a bit after 9:14. The staffer has just told me that the final final deadline is 9:15, and it’s not that yet. This poor guy is bleeding through his pants,  has a big bruise on his face, and is saying something about a bicycle accident. By the time he gets himself settled—he is told that there is no time to clean up—it’s past 9:16. He starts toward the auditorium door as the other staffer says, “OK, that’s IT,” and starts to take the registration materials and lists away….just a very stressed young African-American woman enters, in plenty of time to see the bicycle rider, who is white, enter the auditorium. I can hear the judge through the open door. He’s still telling jokes, longer this time than usual.

Issues and Observations

1. The young woman was not admitted, and told that she had to come back another month. She too was from out of state. She also had a legitimate-sounding excuse.

  • Was that fair to her?
  • Should it have mattered that the program had not yet reached a serious stage?
  • She was told that 15 minutes was the absolute, unwaivable deadline. That was true, but it was not the deadline the company was contracted and pledged to enforce. That deadline was 9:00 am.

2. Should the explanations used by the latecomers play any part in the decision to allow them in? Why? Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Jacoby Ellsbury, Catcher’s Interference, And The Perplexing Ethics Problem Of “Using A Shield As A Sword”

interference

I led two legal ethics seminars for the Oregon State Bar yesterday. For some reason the issue of “using a shield as a sword ” kept coming up.

“Using a shield as a sword” is when lawyers game the ethics rules. Many local bar associations include a pledge within their creeds promising not to intentionally use the ethics rules as a tactical weapon; still, it’s not an enforceable promise. Examples are limited only by a lawyer’s devious ingenuity, but they usual involve one side creating a conflict of interest for the opposing firm or lawyer that will force the lawyer to withdraw from the case. One ploy: a lawyer recruits a key expert witness specifically because she was once a client of the the lawyer on the other side, making it impossible for her to be impeached on the witness stand by that lawyer because he would have confidential information about her that he would be bound to keep secret, even while being required to represent his current client by ripping her credibility to shreds.

What does this have to do with Yankee centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury? Well, Ellsbury is in the process of shattering an obscure baseball record: number of times reached base on catcher’s interference during a season. Catcher’s interference refers to instances in which a catcher makes any contact with a batter or his bat during a pitch. Usually, this involves the batter’s bat hitting the catcher’s glove, as in the photo above. When that happens, a player is awarded first base. The rule is based on fairness and  designed to protect the batter, but apparently Ellsbury has perfected the weird practice of using it as an offensive weapon.

Jacoby Ellsbury became the single-season record holder in catcher’s interference calls  in July with his ninth instance  getting rewarded for it. The record was formerly held by Roberto Kelly, who did this eight times in 1992.  Since breaking the record, Ellsbury has gotten catcher’s interference called three more times, for a current total of 11 with almost a month  left to the season. He is also second all-time in catcher’s interference with 23. The career record belongs to Pete Rose with 29; since Rose is baseball’s all-time leader in games played and career at bats, we would expect him to hold this record. No one else in baseball history has more than 18. Ellsbury is only five catcher’s interferences shy of Rose’s mark, and has done it in less than a third of the at bats. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Professions, Sports

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunces : Michigan State University Student Feminists”

fairness

Here’s the always provocative Extradimensional Cephalopod, discussing the core ethics value of fairness in his Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunces: Michigan State University Student Feminists:

…Anyone who says that a situation in life is not fair is committing what Nasssim Nicholas Taleb called in his book The Black Swam the “ludic fallacy.” That is, treating real life as though it were a game, with a bounded range of outcomes. The way I’m using the term “ludic fallacy”, it also includes assuming that everyone agreed to rules coming in.

Where do you start defining if a race is fair? Do you start with everyone following the rules? Do you start with everyone having the same amount of free time to practice? Do you start with everyone having the same environment to practice in? Being born with the same physiology? Having the same opportunity costs in their life? Having the same psychological predilection for diligence? Where do we stop?

If you wanted to make things perfectly fair, you’d make everyone perfectly the same, or you would account for every difference and statistically measure their relative skills. But what are we measuring? Their bodies? Their brains? Their will? At some point it becomes a simple scientific fact who is more skilled and fit on average, which defeats the point of the game! The game is supposed to be the process by which we find out who would win, and the fun is in not being able to tell beforehand.

No, we need to stop at the beginning of the game. Everyone agreed to the rules going in; they knew the possible outcomes, and they accepted them. If the rules are followed, then it’s “fair.”

Continue reading

13 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, U.S. Society

Lasers, Ethics, And Baseball

"TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!"

“TOO MUCH! TOO MUCH!”

Out of the ever-rich world of major league baseball comes another excellent example of how technology challenges, stretches and confounds traditional ethics.

Over the last decade or so,  it has become possible to track exactly where every ball put into play by every batter goes, and even how fast it gets there. As a result, computers can generate spray charts that will indicate the optimum defensive placements for the opposing team’s players, maximizing the chance that a batter will hit a ball within reach of a fielder. When Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau positioned four infielders on the right side of the field to foil Ted Williams, the “Williams shift” was considered radical and revolutionary. Today, there are shifts designed for a majority of players.

The problem is that with so many shifts, making sure each defensive player is in the right place becomes a challenge.  Now some teams are experimenting with using lasers to mark the grass, so a player will know exactly where to position himself. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under Science & Technology, Sports

A Federal Court Reinstates Tom Brady’s Suspension For Cheating

Good.

What Brady doesn't get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

What Brady doesn’t get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appeals court reinstated the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady yesterday. This overturned last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who had nullified the league’s suspension of the superstar quarterback. The three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote…

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

It is important to note that the Court only ruled on whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to suspend Brady and did not violate the player’s rights as a players union member by doing so. The NFL’s current deal with the players gives Goodell the kind of power Major League Baseball gave to its first commissioner after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, when gamblers fixed the World Series. Goodell, like Landis, can use his discretion to punish a player for “conduct detrimental” to the game and the NFL. They did this because a disturbing number of NFL players were getting headlines for doing things that don’t comport with what the public expects of its paid heroes, like sucker-punching women, shooting people, getting in bar fights, and engaging in assorted felonies. The game also has a very successful coach, Brady’s coach, in fact, who has made it very clear that he will cheat whenever he can get away with it..

I’m not going to rehash the “Deflategate” incident: I wrote enough about it when it occurred. Nobody knows for certain if Tom Brady in fact did conspire with Patriots employees to cheat when his team was behind in a crucial play-off game, but we know this: Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

Jenrry Mejia, The Inexplicable Ethics Mega-Dunce

mejia

What is the explanation for this?

Jenrry Mejia is a young New York Mets relief pitcher who until recently had a bright future as a star closer and a guaranteed multi-millionaire.  Now, entirely on his own initiative, he has become the first player ever banned from baseball for using steroids .

This is not easy, though Mejia did it with ease…and speed.  After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mejia was establishing himself as the Mets closer by the end of the 2014 season. But he began the 2015 season with an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a common PED (Performance Enhancing Drug), then, even before completing that punishment,  flunked another urine test and earned himself a 162-game suspension a few months later.

Knowing full well that a third positive test would end his career, Mejia tried a different banned steroid, was caught again, and that third strike triggered a lifetime expulsion from major league baseball under the sport’s rules. Nobody has been that reckless and stupid, not even Manny Ramirez (who was caught twice), and Manny’s picture is in the dictionary under “reckless and stupid.” Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Sports, U.S. Society, Workplace

The Lesson Of The Pete Rose Saga: It’s Hard Being Ethical When You’re Stupid

Rose rejected

Pete Rose’s final appeal to have his ban from Major League Baseball lifted was rejected, as Commissioner Rob Manfred delivered a stinging rebuke. (You can read his letter here.) The very first ethics post I ever wrote was about Pete, and I have posted about his character and plight several times since. Rose, the all-time leader in hits and undeniably a great player, was banned from the game in 1989. An investigation concluded that he had bet on baseball games while a manager of the Cincinnati Reds, a violation of MLB’s famous “third rail” no-gambling rule, which makes it an automatic expulsion from the profession to place bets on baseball games as a manager, coach or player. This is regarded as an existential rule for baseball, which was nearly ruined when gamblers fixed the 1919 World Series.

Rose maintained his innocence of the allegations for decades, then admitted(to sell a book) that he had been lying, and did gamble. Just a few months ago, evidence surfaced that he had also bet on baseball while a player, which Rose has always denied.

In his letter rejecting Rose’s appeal, Commissioner Manfred noted that one of the conditions that had long been set for Rose to have any chance of reinstatement—though Rule 21 has no exceptions, MLB was willing to do almost anything not to have the holder of the record for lifetime hits on its blacklist—Rose would have to earn a pardon by showing he had turned his life around, meaning that Pete was no longer a sleazeball.

Manfred wrote that Rose, who had, among other black marks, served time in prison for tax evasion, asserted in his latest appeal that he indeed was a new and better man. Nevertheless, Rose…

1. Refused to admit that he had bet on baseball as a player, when the evidence was incontrovertible, and

2. Revealed that he still gambles on horse racing and professional sports, including baseball.

Manfred came to the obvious conclusion that “Charlie Hustle,” who pretty clearly has a gambling addiction, has taken no positive steps toward addressing it, is still a risk to gamble on baseball games or get himself in debt to gamblers if he returned to the sport, and  can’t be trusted.

All of the above could be more concisely summarized by six words: Pete Rose is a stupid man. As comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.” Manfred, in his letter telling Pete that he can forget about any future employment in baseball, noted more than once that Rose does not appear to understand the import and purpose of the rule he violated, which exists  to protect the integrity of the game. Indeed,  Pete Rose wouldn’t know what integrity was if it sat on his face. Continue reading

40 Comments

Filed under Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Sports, U.S. Society