Laws Aren’t Enough: Compassion, Prudence, Proportion And The Golden Rule Must Also Be In The Equation

Here is a cautionary tale out of Great Britain,  whose ethics comprehension appears to have gone into a tailspin.

In Manchester, England about a year ago, Jamie Griffiths , then a 19-year-old male student, reached out and  touched a 17-year-old female classmate’s arm while they were both walking along a city street during the day. Jamie explained to police, which the young woman contacted because of the incident, that he had just wanted to get her attention, introduce himself, and maybe “make a friend.”

Instead, the woman claims, the spontaneous encounter quickly spiraled out of control. As she told the court, according to The Manchester Evening News,

“I was just set on getting home and [reviewing] for my mock exams, but as I was coming over the bridge I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just facing the hedge, staring at it. As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me. I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved, I moved, and I said: ‘stop’ and he touched me on my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away…I forgot about it for a while because I had my exams. I just thought it was weird behavior.” She went to the police and reported the episode. Then there was a second. This time, the 17-year-old was was walking to school when Griffiths walked in front of her and touched her side, staying in contact, she said, for about three seconds. “He smirked at me, he didn’t stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street—it was quite traumatic.”

She and her mother filed a crime report. The student was traumatized by the encounters, she says. “Every time I started working I would cry because I would think of it. I felt very unsafe, even in my own home.”

A magistrate convicted Jamie Griffiths of two charges of sexual assault, accepting the young woman’s assessment that there was “no doubt” that had she not moved away from him that first time he touched her arm, he would have gone on to touch her breast. “The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment,” the magistrate told the defendant. “We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual. Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.” Continue reading

Never Mind, Ms. Guerrero: Hillary Clinton Says You Should Just “Get Over It”

Vanina Guerrero, a junior partner at mega-law firm DLA Piper, has alleged that a rainmaking partner who recruited her to the firm pursued and groped her, and then retaliated when she rejected his advances.

“I experienced such horrific conduct at the hands of a senior male partner and deserve to openly litigate my claims,” she wrote in a letter. The problem is that she is bound by her agreement with the firm to submit the dispute to binding arbitration.

A “rainmaker,” eh? That rang a bell…YES! Here’s a post, “Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers,” I wrote last year about the typical attitudes on major law firms when protecting female staff against sexually abusive partners who make a lot of money for the other lawyers. I wrote in part, in revulsion over an ABA Journal article about how a sensible firm with a harassing but lucrative partner had to “balance’ considerations…

[T]he consultant begins quoting another ethics-lite law firm consultant. Apparently they are all like this. He says that…

“…most firms tolerate rainmakers’ abusive behavior unless it threatens something essential in the firm’s culture. Peters says firms must draw a line when the “fabric of the firm” is at risk. “The firm must win. No one, not even a rainmaker, can be allowed to destroy the fabric of the firm.”

That’s the standard? Destroying the firm? I think what this Authentic Frontier Gibberish means is that when a rainmaker does so much internal damage to the organization that even all the money he or she brings in won’t make up for it, that abusive rainmaker has to go. Talk about a low bar! “We’ll let you get away with just about anything since you make us so much money, but just don’t destroy the firm.”

It sound like DLA Piper’s management read the ABA Journal’s “How to justify keeping harassers around when they make you a lot of money” guide. Guerrero says she reported the situation to Sang Kim, one of the leaders of DLA’s Northern California offices. He said that it sounded like a he-said, she-said situation, and she should “talk it out” with four senior partners, including the partner she accused. That’s a common dodge. Continue reading

By What Theory Is This Judge Qualified To Stay On The Bench?

How low can judicial standards of ethics go? In the 10th Circuit, apparently, pretty low.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas, is an appointee of President Bill Clinton. His sister is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was also appointed by Clinton.

According to the Tenth Circuit’s judicial council recent opinion following a judicial conduct investigation, Judge  Murguia gave “preferential treatment and unwanted attention to female employees of the judiciary in the form of sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages, and excessive, non-work-related contact, much of which occurred after work hours and often late at night.” In other words, he is a serial sexual harasser. The harassed employees, the investigation found,  were reluctant to tell Murguia to stop his abuse because of his power as a federal judge.  One victim finally complained.  Murguia continued the harassing conduct anyway. Continue reading

Ethics Cool-Down, 9/25/19: Democracy On The Rocks

Ahhhhh…

I wish I had a martini, but since I don’t keep alcohol in the house, this will do…

1. More from the Ethics Alarms “res Ipsa loquitur” files:

The story is here.

I remember kindergarten classmates, boys and girls, frequently going on kissing sprees. Adults knew it was nothing decades ago. Had #MeToo really made people this unable to make obvious distinctions? Proportion is an ethical value.

2. Regarding today’s earlier post from the same files...Yes, I think that the transcript of the President’s call to the Ukraine, on its face, should make Democratic claims of an impeachable offense look as silly and contrived as they are. This does not, however, allow for confirmation bias, which is at fever pitch in “the resistance” with some toxic frustration and desperation mixed in. This is one reason the mainstream media keeps calling the transcript a “summary,” which implies that something material is missing, and your Deranged friends keep raising Nixon’s edited versions of White House meetings on Watergate matters, as if this has any similarity to that at all.

Calls with foreign leaders are typically not recorded, so this was a reconstructed transcript, which is as close to an exact one as we are going to get. For those who presume that everything this President does is impeachable, that’s a problem. For those who accept that he was elected President and should have the same opportunity to do his job as all the others, it isn’t, and there are too many like that in the public for this latest manufactured offense to work.

I guess this is Plan S.

I’m so, so sick of this.

3. I guess it’s time for another update:

The Complete Presidential Impeachment or Removal Plans A-S (Updated 9/25/2019)

Plan A: Reverse the election by hijacking the Electoral College.

Plan B: Pre-emptive impeachment. 

Plan C : The Emoluments Clause.

Plan D: “Collusion with Russia”

Plan E : ”Trump is mentally ill so this should trigger the 25th Amendment.”

Plan F: The Maxine Waters Plan, which  is to just impeach the President because Democrats want to, because they can.

Plan G : “The President obstructed justice by firing incompetent subordinates, and that’s impeachable.”

Plan H: “Tweeting stupid stuff is impeachable”

Plan I:  “Let’s relentlessly harass him and insult him and obstruct his efforts to do his job so he snaps and does something really impeachable.”

Plan J : Force Trump’s resignation based on alleged sexual misconduct that predated his candidacy.

Plan K: Election law violations in pay-offs to old sex-partners

Plan L: The perjury trap: get Trump to testify under oath, then prove something he said was a lie.

Plan M: Guilt by association. Prove close associates or family members violated laws.

Plan N: Claim that Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were “treasonous.”

Plan O: The Mueller Report proves the Trump is unfit for office even if it did not conclude that he committed any impeachable offenses. 

Plan P: Summarized here as “We have to impeach him because he’s daring us to and if we don’t, we let him win, but we can’t, but then he’ll win!”.”

Plan Q: Impeach Trump to justify getting his taxes, and then use the presumed evidence in his taxes to impeach him.

Plan R: Rep. Adam Schiff announced on July 24 that President Trump should be impeached because he is “disloyal” to the country. This desperate response to the fizzle of the Mueller Report was ignored and forgotten the second it came out of Schiff’s mouth, but it confirmed what the list above already proved: the Democrats don’t want to impeach the President for something he did; they want to find something he did to justify impeaching him.

Plan S: Trump should be impeached because his call to Ukrainian President Zelensky was really an effort to shake down the Ukraine and force it to find dirt on Joe Biden, thus “interfering” in the 2020 election even though Biden hasn’t been nominated (and won’t be), even though a President has every justification to seek evidence of a prior administration’s wrongdoing in foreign relations, and even though there isn’t a whiff of a threat of quid pro quo in the only transcript of the call.

Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/2019: Trump’s Obsession, Joe’s Hands, And University Ethics Stumbles

Good morning!

September has always been my favorite month at the beach….not that I’m at one. But I can dream…

1. Dumbest Ethics Train Wreck of the Year. Incredibly, people are still arguing over whether the President “lied” about Alabama being at risk from Hurricane Dorian, and the news media is still writing about it as if it mattered. I wish I had the time to make a list of all the real news stories with actual impact on the nation that the mainstream news media has buried or ignored in recent years to contrast with this nonsense. Of course, the President is also at fault, since he is incapable of letting stuff like this go, as, say, a well-adjusted adult and responsible leader would. The latest (from the AP);

…The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement from an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to the president had demonstrated that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The advisories were dated from last Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, the statement read.

Friday’s statement also said the Birmingham NWS tweet Sunday morning “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”

The statement from NOAA contrasts with comments the agency’s spokesman, Chris Vaccaro, made Sunday. “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama,” Vaccaro said at the time.

Friday’s NOAA statement, released just before 5 p.m., points to a few graphics issued by the National Hurricane Center to support Trump’s claims. The maps show percentage possibility of tropical storm force winds in the United States. Parts of Alabama were covered, usually with 5% to 10% chances, between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. Maps on Aug. 30 grew to cover far more of Alabama, but for only 12 hours, and the highest percentage hit 20% to 30% before quickly shrinking back down.

Alabama was not mentioned in any of the 75 forecast advisories the hurricane center sent out between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2. From Aug 28 to Aug. 31, a handful of locations in Alabama were mentioned in charts that listed percentage chance of tropical storm force winds or hurricane winds, maxing out at about 7 percent chance for Whiting Field to get tropical storm force winds.

Former National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read blasted NOAA leadership Friday night on his Facebook page calling the situation “so disappointing” and saying he would comment because NOAA employees were ordered to be quiet.

“Either NOAA Leadership truly agrees with what they posted or they were ordered to do it. If it is the former, the statement shows a lack of understanding of how to use probabilistic forecasts in conjunction with other forecast information. Embarrassing. If it is the latter, the statement shows a lack of courage on their part by not supporting the people in the field who are actually doing the work. Heartbreaking,” Read wrote.

Takeaways: This is only news because 1) so many people will grab on to anything if it will allow them to denigrate the President and 2) the President acts the way he does.

2. Least shocking ethics story of the week: Campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Joe Biden grabbed pre-school teacher Jessica Roman’s  hands and held them while he double-talked around her  question about his plans to help unionized teachers deal with Iowa’s collective bargaining laws. She later told the news media that his physical contact was “unwelcome”: Continue reading

Psst! Everybody: Joe’s Not Going To Make It. The Public Can Stand Only So Much Hypocrisy and Double Standards, And Biden Is Already Testing The Limits of Both.

Just how out-of-it can Joe Biden act and sound before Democrats realize that he’s not just a lost cause, but an irresponsible choice?

Item I: At a New Hampshire rally a week ago,  claimed that as Vice President he had once been asked to travel to the dangerous Kunar province in Afghanistan to pin the Silver Star on a war hero who had rappelled down a steep wall to retrieve the body of a fallen comrade. Biden said he ignored others who warned him not to go. “We can lose a Vice president,” Biden said he answered boldly. “We can’t lose many more of these kids.”

When he pinned the medal to the soldier’s uniform, the Navy captain told Biden that he didn’t deserve the medal because he hadn’t been able to save his comrade’s life. “This is the God’s truth,” Joe told the audience. “My word as a Biden.”

Now the Washington Post has fact-checked the story–the paper’s goal is to get Kamala Harris the nomination, in case you’re tempted to think that the Post is suddenly being objective—and concluded that “almost every detail in the story appears to be incorrect.”

Hilariously, or typically, or disgustingly, CNN’s ridiculous April Ryan—another unprofessional journalist that no respectable and trustworthy network would continue to employ, but you know…CNN— attempted to rationalize and defend Biden telling a fake story and calling it “God’s truth.”

Ryan, appearing as an “analyst” on  CNN’s OutFront  was spinning like mad dervish for  host Jim Sciutto, saying,
Continue reading

Sexual Harassment, Cancellation Culture, Anonymous Accusers, And Placido Domingo

A report last week revealed that nine women accuse towering opera figure Placido Domingo of sexual harassment.  None of the accusations have been investiaged or substantiated, and only one of them isn’t anonymous. Yet two American institutions, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera, immediately canceled their upcoming concerts with him, giving the now-familiar “safe environments” explanation. None of. Domingo’s many upcoming scheduled performances in Europe were canceled, however, as sponsors took what the New York Times calls  “a wait-and-see approach,” or what used to be known in this country as “Let’s not punish someone based on unsubstantiated  accusations alone.” Or fairness. Due process. The Golden Rule.

There are countervailing factors pulling every which way. As I understand it, #MeToo  and “Time’s Up” insists that female accusers must be believed, unless the accused is the black, Democratic Party’s Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, or the harassment is caught on camera repeatedly, as in the case of the Democratic Party front-runner for President. In the arts, these allegations have had mixed effect. Conductor James Levine has not performed in public since he was fired by the Metropolitan Opera last year after accusations of sexually abusive and harassing conduct were substantiated in an investigation, but when Pixar chief and creative muse John Lasseter was fired for being a serial hugger (rather like that Democratic Party front-runner) he was rapidly snapped up by a rival studio that gave him as much power and more money. Go figure.

There is the anonymous factor: it is my long held position that an anonymous accusation relating to the workplace should be regarded as no accusation at all, meaning that there has been one allegation of sexual harassment against Domingo. An accused individual cannot address claims when he doesn’t know their source or facts. I have been the target of false anonymous accusations—not of harassment—in my career, and as a manager in various businesses and associations, I told staff that unless they were willing to go on the record with an accusation of wrongdoing, I didn’t want to hear it. It is too easy to destroy careers and reputations with false accusations with no accountability attached.

The other issue is the multiple accusation factor. In sexual abuse and harassment, there are no one-time offenders unless there has been a massive miscommunication. The typical scenario is that a single accusation triggers several, often many, more with near identical facts. This is why I did not believe Anita Hill and Dr. Blasey-Ford, and why I did believe Bill Cosby’s many accusers.

Timing is also important. Ancient accusations of sexual misconduct—I would say anything more than five years old is dubious—arriving after memories have faded, evidence has vanished and seemingly timed to do maximum damage to the accused should be treated with skepticism and a presumption of  bad will, especially when the accused is a public figure.

And yet… Continue reading