From The Ethics Alarms Law vs. Ethics Files: Yet Another Example Of How The Public’s Ignorance Of How Laws Work Imperils Us All


Because he just IS, that’s all. Everybody knows it. Come on. What’s the problem?

Well, I’m still waiting for the wave of op-eds and pundit pieces condemning the judge in the Dennis Hastert case for somehow turning the ex-Speaker’s trial for breaking banking laws into a trial for child molestation even though he couldn’t be charged with that crime.

I appear to be one of the very few people alarmed by this. Coming at a time when we have a Presidential candidate advocating the imprisonment of financial traders without any indications that they broke actual laws, this qualifies as a bona fide societal virus, and a potentially dangerous one.

Over at Popehat, habitual Ethics Hero Ken White flagged another outbreak that somehow I missed (I blame Fred).

It seems that an Oklahoma court rejected the prosecution of a teenage boy for engaging in oral sex with a teenage girl (she was, to be delicate, the oral recipient) who was passed out drunk, and the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, ruling:

“Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation. We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”

Ken begins, tongue hard in cheek,

“Did you hear? Oklahoma said it’s legal to rape someone if they’re unconscious from drinking! They said it’s not rape at all! It’s classic victim-blaming! It’s outrageous! It’s rape culture! It’s just what you would expect from one of those states!”

He then examines the statutes involved. It turns out that the unimaginative legislature, when defining the crime of forcible sodomy which was what the boy was charged with, missed this set of potential facts. She wasn’t forcibly raped, because she wasn’t conscious. Continue reading

Supreme Court Justice Powell’s Ethical Dilemmas

Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell

Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell

The New York Times, anticipating next year’s Supreme Court consideration of the gay marriage problem, tells a fascinating story about the late Justice Lewis Powell, who was the swing vote in the 1986 case of  Bowers v. Hardwick, which was overturned in 2003, upholding a Georgia law outlawing sodomy.

During the consideration of the case, Powell told his colleagues that he had never met a homosexual, though in reality he had more than one gay law clerk during his tenure, and according to at least one of the former clerks, knew it.  (Powell even quizzed one of them about the mechanics of gay sex.) The reason he told his fellow Justices an untruth, the theory goes, is that he knew there was a stigma in the legal profession and in Washington connected to being gay, and he wanted to protect his law clerks.

Yet Powell, after flip-flopping on Bowers, finally came down on the side of a state’s right to make homosexual sex a crime. Continue reading