Wuhan Virus Ethics: The Conflicted Pitcher

Mike Clevinger: star pitcher, loyal team mate, jerk.

It’s baseball meets the Wuhan virus in today’s ethics showdown. Not surprisingly, since baseball players have the approximate ethics acumen of a typical member of Congress, the virus wins.

Essential background: Major League Baseball is desperately trying to complete some semblance of a season, with the key word being “semblance.” There are no fans in the stands; double headers games are only seven innings, and teams have NFL-style “taxi squads” instsead on minor league teams. Baseball has also installed strict protocols involving masks, social distancing, and players avoiding physical contact. One team, the Florida Marlins, has already had a virus breakout that took almost half the active roster out of circulation. This resulted in lots of canceled games and the reworking of other teams’ schedules. (Ironically, the Marlins taxi squad players have done almost nothing but win since they took over. That’s baseball, Ray!). Now a second team, the S, Louis Cardinals, has had multiple players test positive because a player came in contact with an infected non-team member, than joined the other Cardinals on a plane. St. Louis has missed two weeks of games. MLB knows that much more of this will make continuing the season, weird as it may be, impossible. Teams have been warned of dire consequences if they don’t  keep their players—you, know, millionaire morons with the emotional maturity of Adam Sandler—in line.

Now, the rest of the story. Continue reading

Here’s A First: Kansas Suspends A Lawyer For Facebook Bullying

It's unethical for a lawyer to play a sad violin over Facebook??? Why yes, it is!

It’s unethical for a lawyer to play a sad violin over Facebook???  Why yes, it is!

Eric Michael Gamble was representing a biological father opposed to the adoption of his daughter, which had been approved by the 18-year-old mother.

After Gamble deposed the young woman, he messaged her on Facebook in a shamelessly manipulative fashion, saying…

‘I wish to offer you some reasons why you should stand up and fight for your daughter. As you know, I am the attorney for [the biological father]. We held your deposition in my office. I wanted to give you the chance to make things right. This may be your last opportunity to be a mom for [the baby]. As I told you after your deposition in my office, it is not too late. You still have a wonderful opportunity to have a real relationship with your daughter if you so choose. I have attached a document for you to consider signing and bringing to court or to my office. It is a revocation of your consent to adopt. If you sign this document there is a very good chance that you will be able to call [the baby] your own and [the baby] will call you her mom. I can’t begin to explain how beautiful and wonderful parenthood is. I have a little girl myself and she is my world just like you are your dad’s world. [The baby] deserves to know her parents. She deserves to know that you love her and care for her as well. Do not let this opportunity pass you by because you will live with this decision the rest of your life and [the baby] will know someday what happened. [The adoptive parents] do not legally have to ever let you see her again after court (although they are probably trying to convince you otherwise with the idea of an ‘open adoption’). The reason why you don’t know about the trial was because they don’t want you there because that doesn’t help [the adoptive parents] case. This is your time to get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right and what [the baby] deserves. She deserves to have her parents love and care for her. She deserves to know her grandparents and extended family. If she’s adopted, she won’t have that chance. [The biological father] wants to be her dad and to love her. She deserves that. I urge you to print, sign, and notarize this document and bring it to my office before court. Trial is June 27, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse, Division 15. I hope to see you and your father there.’

What’s wrong with this? The legal ethics rules protect unrepresented parties in a matter from exactly this sort of pressure. Rule 4.3, in Kansas and elsewhere, prohibits a lawyer from giving advice to adversaries of his or her client, which statements like “This is your time to get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right and what [the baby] deserves” clearly are. The rules also require lawyers to treat all participants in the justice system with fairness and respect. That message constitutes neither. Rule 4.4 says that “In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.” Gamble has a defense, of course: his substantial purpose was to have the adoption dropped like his client wanted, but since he wasn’t supposed to be talking to her anyway (other than to advise her to get a lawyer), that wasn’t going to fly. Rule 8.4, meanwhile, says that a lawyer must not “engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

After he lost the case, Gamble reported himself for the Rule 4.3 violation. This is usually a good tactic to encourage lenient treatment, but in this case, it didn’t work. In suspending Gamble for six months, the Kansas Supreme Court seemed to invoke all three of the violated rules, as it wrote,

“…As the hearing panel noted, respondent “attempted to manipulate the biological mother and, as a result, interfered with justice.” Respondent’s conduct “amounted to emotional blackmail” of an unrepresented 18-year-old who was dealing with a process that was already “’emotionally exhausting.'” His “electronic message was designed to embarrass, burden, and create guilt in the mind of the biological mother.” These “bullying tactics directly reflect on [respondent’s] fitness to practice law as an attorney.” Consequently, we hold that the respondent should be suspended for a period of 6 months. A minority of the court would impose a longer period of suspension. We unanimously order a reinstatement hearing under Rule 219.”

And the social media claims another victim.

Addendum: I was remiss, in posting this, not noting that the underlying issue in the lawsuit is a far more serious and complex ethical and legal one than the topic of this post: the matter of unwed mothers putting their new borns up for adoption without the father’s consent or participation. That has been a battle royale on Ethics Alarms twice, and you can review it here.


Pointer: ABA Journal

Facts: Legal Profession Blog

NBA Owner Bruce Levenson Race-Baits Himself: What’s Going On Here?

Self-flaggelation, the new NBA craze...

Self-flaggelation, the new NBA craze…

You don’t see this every day.

In a cynical, bizarre, and almost certainly dishonest act that will degrade public understanding of racism while pushing the NBA closer to certified madness and the Unites States toward speech and thought censorship, the controlling owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Bruce Levenson, announced that he is selling in interest in the ABA club because—pay close attention now—he sent an internal memo two years ago that was “racially insensitive.”

Wow. I’m all in favor of self-reporting, but this is ridiculous.

If American journalism and punditry was not race-addled and competent at its job, headlines around the news media this morning would be  “NBA Owner Exploits Donald Sterling Controversy To Get Top Dollar For His Team” or something similar. Instead, we are reading headlines like NBA owner to sell team after racist email (USA Today), Atlanta Hawks Owner To Sell Team After Racist E-mail About How to Increase White Fans (New York Post), while the left-leaning websites are salivating all over  themselves with leads like Bruce Levenson will sell Atlanta Hawks after releasing racist e-mail (ThinkProgress) and Atlanta Hawks Owner To Sell Team After Discovery Of Racist Email (Slate).

Allow me to clarify this at the start: there is nothing “racist” about the e-mail Levenson “self-reported”to the NBA,  at least, nothing racist regarding African-Americans, and last I checked, racist comments about one’s own race when one is white is regarded as a badge of honor in Progressive World. This verdict isn’t debatable, in my opinion, at least not in good faith.

Here is what the relevant section said, in a long e-mail regarding the promotion, marketing and attendance development of his team focusing on everything from the demeanor of ushers to what the concession stands sell; I have marked the significant sections with letters in red. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Golfer Blayne Barber

Aspiring professional golfers can’t just join the PGA tour. They have to qualify by completing and passing PGA school.  Blayne Barber is one such golfer, and his dreams of winning tournaments and cash prizes will have to wait at least another year, if they are realized at all. He washed out this year. The way he washed out, however, is remarkable, and shows that if he does make it into the PGA ranks, Barber will be a credit to his sport.

Indeed, most pro golfers are credits to their sport, because golf has managed to hold the line against the increasing cultural acceptance of poor sportsmanship better than any of our professional pastimes, with tennis a distant second, and third place too far away to see without binoculars. This is a sport where the honor system is mandatory. One reason the tradition of self-regulation has persisted in golf may be because cheating in contests is so easy, and because there are so many ways to do it. Players find their own balls, and write down their own scores. Anyone who has seen James Bond and Auric Goldfinger take turns cheating each other in the famous grudge match from the movie knows that amateur golf can be cutthroat and nasty. The pros have built a culture that requires exemplary conduct.

Few would be this exemplary, however. Continue reading

The Message or the Messenger: The Mysterious Foundation For A Better Life

Does it matter who's behind the curtain?

The Foundation for a Better Life sponsors those slick TV spots promoting ethical values like kindness, sportsmanship, charity, and sacrifice. I have long wondered where they came from, and belatedly visited the organization’s website, Values.com, where I spent quite a while clicking through their extensive links to descriptions of core ethical values and inspiring stories. Not bad. The only deficiency I could see with the site was the lack of any explanation regarding how the Foundation was funded, who ran it and who was responsible for it. The site describes itself thusly:

“The Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, started in 2000. Our sole objective is to promote positive values, using print and broadcast media.

We want the stories we share about the positive actions and values of others to serve as inspiration for someone to do one thing a little better, and then pass on that inspiration. A few individuals living values-based lives will collectively make the world a better place.

The Foundation does not have a political or religious agenda. Our values are selected with the hope that most individuals would find these values universal, encouraging, and inspiring. The Foundation acknowledges that each person has a unique lens through which he or she views the world. Naturally there are religious, nonreligious, political, and cultural views that give meaning to our lives. Our objective is to provide a wide spectrum of values without any intended agenda or slant and provide an uplifting message around each one.”

And this appears to be exactly what the Foundation does. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Sheppard Smith

I don’t know when the last time was that a news anchor slammed his own network for shoddy journalism, but Sheppard Smith did it, to Fox News, his employer, over its complicity in the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. The criticism is well deserved. Now if only Sheppard would start calling out his network regularly when they do similar things, we might have a reliable news source one of these days.

And then, maybe some anchors at CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC  (no, MSNBC is beyond hope) would start doing their own policing! Imagine! Self-policing by the news media! Soon reporters will be free of bias, and stories won’t be hyped or buried according the news room’s political preferences! And there will be the dawning of a great new day in responsible journalism, where truth, not spin or entertainment value or ratings, will be the only goal! And we’ll be able to trust what we hear and read!!


Still, Sheppard Smith did the right thing. Good for him.

Ethics Hero: P.G.A. Golfer Brian Davis

I don’t follow golf, but if this sort of thing happens very often, I may have to become a fan…in spite of Tiger Woods.

P.G.A. tour veteran Brian Davis was facing Jim Furyk in a playoff at the Verizon Heritage, and trying to finally win a P.G.A. event. His approach shot to the first hole in the playoff bounced off the green and landed in the rough. When Davis attempted to knock the ball back up to the green, his club barely swiped a weed on his backswing. The rules of tournament golf decree that touching anything lying around the ball during a player’s backswing violates  the prohibition against moving loose obstacles or impediments to a shot. The required penalty: two strokes, enough to guarantee that David would lose the play-off and his best, maybe only, chance for PGA glory, not to mention a seven figure prize.

Davis may have been the only one to notice the infraction, but golf is a game that calls for self-reporting. That’s what he did: he called the violation on himself, and made himself a loser. Continue reading

Soccer Ethics, and the Duty to Self-Report in Sports

Back in January, Pope Benedict XVI opined that soccer was the perfect vehicle to teach young people moral lessons, “a tool,” in his words, “for the teaching of life’s ethical and spiritual values.” Since then, soccer players have been going out of their way, it seems, to prove him wrong, led by New Mexico women’s soccer player Elizabeth Lambert. Continue reading