Instagram Busts A Lawyer’s Lie

New York-based lawyer Lina Franco had missed a November 23, 2016 filing deadline for a motion for class certification in a wage-and-hour law suit. Missing deadlines is a lawyer n0-no, and can get you sanctioned, sued, fired, or worse.  Luckily, Franco had an excuse, or so she thought.  She filed for an extension 16 days past the deadline, claiming that she had been forced to leave the country for the family emergency. She even submitted a flight itinerary showing she had flown from New York City to Mexico City on Thursday, November 21, and had remained there until December 8.

Let’s call this particular social media gaffe Ferris Bueller’s Mistake.  For Instagram photos from Franco’s public account indicated that she was in New York City and later Miami during that period. You know, like when Ferris turned up on TV at a ball game when he was supposedly sick in bed? Like that.  There was another teeny problem: November 21, 2016 was a Monday, not a Thursday, as the judge sanctioning Franco $10,000 pointed out in his ruling.

Franco now admits that she had gone to Mexico City earlier in November than she said, but that her mother’s medical diagnosis sent her “into a tailspin” causing her to miss the deadline and to submit the  false itinerary.

Now watch Instagram posts show up from Franco’s mother, with photos of her winning a seniors kickboxing tournament. Continue reading

The NCAA Withdraws Its Unethical Sanctions On Penn State

Paterno  Statue

To clear our palates of the nasty aftertaste from the welter of Ethics Train Wrecks crashing though our skulls of late, I thought it might be calming to note the latest settling of the wreckage from one of the worst ETW’s of them all: the Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno-Penn State Express.

Yesterday, the NCAA prematurely lifted its remaining sanctions on Penn State, deceptively declaring a victory and retreating because its sanctions were about to be declared illegal. I’m not going to write as much as I normally would about this, because I’d like to send you here, to Glenn Logan’s blog A Sea of Blue, where he covers the matter superbly. Glenn is a longtime visitor at eEthics Alarms, but his own blog keeps him too busy to comment as often as he once did. Not only is he ethically astute and a fine writer, he also is one of the rare bloggers who engages his commenters on a regular basis, a practice I obviously endorse.

When the NCAA decided to ignore its charter and the limits of its powers to slap Penn State with draconian punishment for conduct that had less to do with college athletics and more to do with the ability of a role model’s ability to corrupt a culture, I called it a capitulation to the mob, and wrote… Continue reading

Michelle Obama’s Hashtag Mini-Train Wreck


The debate over Michelle Obama’s ill-advised foray into hashtag diplomacy–itself a misbegotten creature whose birth we will live to regret, if we don’t already–has turned nasty and stupid, and, of course, partisan, with the media, so incapable of objective analysis now that it hurts even to watch it pretend, rushing to defend the First Lady who walked right into this spinning blade, and should have known better.

Some observations and conclusions:

  • When the First Lady, any of them, presumes to wade into policy matters with the force of her husband’s office behind her, he is presumed to approve. When the policy matter involves international diplomacy, which, we hope, is carefully planned, whatever action or statement the First lady makes is indistinguishable from a Presidential action. Would the President of the United States appear anything other than weak and ridiculous if his response to any international crisis was to hold a sign in a photograph for Twiiter and make a frownie-face? No. Therefore, it was damaging to the President, the office and the nation for Michelle to tweet the same, but with her in his place, out to the world.
  • Two analogies, one real and one hypothetical, come to mind. In his short term of office, President Gerald Ford’s major domestic problem was exploding inflation, and he obviously had no idea what to do about it. His “program,” essentially, consisted of publicizing the mantra “Whip Inflation Now!,” most prominently embodied with the infamous “WIN” buttons. Ford was widely ridiculed by this exercise in futile gesture and magical thinking. He deserved it. Michelle’s stunt—it is a stunt—is redolent of Ford’s buttons.

The hypothetical: Imagine if the U.S. and the world’s (disgraceful and ) general policy of contrived ignorance of the Holocaust prior to our entering World War II was addressed by FDR having his “legs,” Eleanor, pose for a photo as she held up a sign reading “Save the Jews”…and frowning. Continue reading

The Lawyer, The Bar And The Nigerian Prince: A Bar Can Teach A Lawyer Ethics Lessons With Sanctions, But How Does It Fix Stupid?

"YOU again!"

“YOU again!”

It can’t.

You can read, here, the jaw-dropping Iowa Supreme Court opinion affirming a one-year suspension of Iowa lawyer Robert Allan Wright Jr.for talking his clients into loaning money to…that ubiquitous Nigerian Prince. Wright  solicited more than $200,000 in loans from five current and former clients, promising them they would receive as much as quadruple their investment when proceeds of the inheritance described in that helpful e-mail was obtained.  He was only going to take a 10% contingency, which is actually very reasonable…or would be, if this hadn’t been a scam.

After his clients lost all their money, Wright was cited for violations of several Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, including… Continue reading

Hypocrites of the Year: The NCAA

Emmert: “Never again will the NCAA be blamed for the results of the culture we encourage and support. We hope.” (Or words to that effect.)

What’s wrong with the NCAA’s epic sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky pederasty scandal? I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days, and I’ve concluded that the answer is “Just about everything.”

Most of the focus of the media and pundits have been on the “punishing the innocent” complaint. As a general rule, I detest aversion to punishing the innocent as a justification for inadequately punishing the guilty or otherwise avoiding necessary steps to address problems; it’s a rationalization for encouraging unethical, exploitive, illegal and even deadly conduct. This toxic rationale has caused incalculable harm across the globe; it currently abets illegal immigration, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and the international crimes of dictators. The United States, within our lifetimes, may drive itself into financial collapse by adopting the theory that it is unfair and unethical to “punish” the expectant beneficiaries of entitlements that the nation can no longer afford by reducing  benefits, or by taxing wealthy citizens who opposed the profligate spending in the first place. As Ethics Bob writes in his post about the Penn State sanctions,

“Accountability for wrongdoing often brings down the innocent along with the guilty. Think about the workers at Enron, Arthur Anderson, or MCI-Worldcom, who lost their jobs when their bosses’ malfeasance destroyed their companies… there is no way of punishing the guilty without harming people close to, or dependent on them. Even a mass murderer–when he is sent away his mother suffers along with him. When Al Qaeda militants are killed, their family members often die with them.”

Bob isn’t making an invalid “everybody does it,” argument, but a practical, “that’s the way the world works” argument.  If we believe in accountability, we have to accept the fact that the innocent will often be collateral damage. It isn’t fair, but this is utilitarianism at its most persuasive. Allowing wrongdoers to  prosper is ethically worse.

If the NCAA sanctions against Penn State were otherwise appropriate, I wouldn’t have a problem with the collateral damage. They aren’t appropriate, however. The sanctions are unethical. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “As the Cancer of Corruption Spreads, a Diagnosis and Treatment”

Michael, who knows college culture from personal experience,  elaborates on the University of Miami athletics scandal, which he correctly notes is hardly news, just a predictable escalation of corruption we have tolerated for too long. When the reaction to an instance of corruption is “well, that’s no surprise!” it is a symptom that we are becoming inured to a cultural condition that should not be tolerated.

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day, on “As the Cancer of Corruption Spreads, a Diagnosis and Treatment”:

“Well, this is not news. This is just someone mentioning the elephant in the room. Some things I have noticed in my years of academia about sports include:

From School 1:

• Riding a bus with the campus football players for 3 years and listening to them talk. Things like “The cops said if they caught me beating someone up outside the bar one more time, they would arrest me”.

• An athlete who “only could afford to go to college because of football because his family has no money” had some problems with the law. Six months into the school year, he was living in one of the most expensive condo complexes in town. His beeper went off to notify him that someone was tampering with his brand-new $35,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee. He went out on the balcony with his brand-new $1000 Glock pistol. When he saw several people around his Jeep, he started shooting at them. They were the police (condo complexes like this have excellent response time). He said he was worried because he had just installed a $6000 stereo system in the Jeep. No charges were filed.

•My brother ended up in a small class (~20 students) with a Heisman trophy winner. He only found out when the “student” athlete showed up once near the end of the semester. That was the “student’s” only appearance that semester.

From School 2:

• A football player from a poor family who needed the scholarship to go to college moved into my apartment complex one building away from me. After about a month, an electronics store van pulled up and delivered a full-wall sized TV. A brand-new Porsche 924 showed up later that day. Boosters are wonderful.

• The geography department issued a memo to the department that all faculty would provide the keys to their exams to the athletic tutors at least one week in advance of the exam. This explained why geography was one of the most popular majors among athletes at that University. Nationally, such majors are known as ‘safe harbor’ majors by the people who study such things.

From School 3:

•Athletes are paid to ‘watch oil wells’ to make sure they are working (they are on timers and automatically monitored.)

•A local car dealership was caught paying football players as shadow employees.

•A former student reports that he is in the same class with a major college football player. He reports that the player listens to his iPod while an Asian girl (his tutor) takes notes. On test days, the tutor takes the exam, in class, in front of all the students and the professor.

“This is going on at all schools. You can’t stop it with sanctions. Everyone knows about it, and everyone accepts it. The only way to stop it is to restructure it. The judge who accepted the ‘student-athlete’ excuse did everyone a great disservice. If they had ruled for the students as employees, we could go about this without such scandals. Athletes would be employees, could be paid, have insurance, disability, and could get a tuition waiver to take classes. They could take classes part-time and if they didn’t make it to the major leagues, they could stay on and complete their degrees in a couple years. No more dishonesty. The downside is, someone might actually start to look at how much taxpayer money goes to support these programs and start asking why we spend so much ‘education’ money on these teams. Don’t say ‘they make money!’, only about a dozen make more money than they cost and that isn’t every year. In the early 2000′s a team that recently was #1 ran out of money and the college cancelled the journal subscriptions at the library to keep it going.”

Addendum from JAM: I feel compelled to note that the idea of paying athletes as employees, which I hear a lot, is a terrible idea. With the tuition at colleges and universities already making paupers out of students, a university’s resources should never be used to pay entertainers, which is what paid athletes are. Require schools to make sure that every athlete is legitimately passing genuine academic courses, or is caused to withdraw from school. Ban athletic scholarships for students who do not have the academic credentials to be admitted without them. Ban schools that cheat from high profile sports for five years or more. Dissolve the NCAA. Schools are for education, not sports. Sports should have no more prominence than the theater program or the chess team.

It is rare that the application of rational priorities will solve a huge problem of long standing, but this is such an instance.