The SCOTUS Decision In June Medical Services v. Russo

This post just leapt over several others because the case was just announced.

The Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, enacted in 2014, requires physicians performing abortions in Louisiana to have the right to admit patients to a hospital within thirty miles of the place where the abortion is performed. The law is virtually identical (as today’s opinion points out) to a Texas law that the Court held in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was unconstitutional four years ago by a vote of 5-3. In a vote that will have conservative bloggers’ heads exploding  like fireworks, Chief Justice John Roberts, who had been among the dissenters in the Texas case, joined the four liberals in ruling that the Louisiana law is also unconstitutional, while saying that he still believes that the Texas case was wrongly decided.

The decision is here. SCOTUS Blog’s coverage is here.

I won’t comment on the dissents—-there are several—because I haven’t read them yet.  (But I would bet my head that Justices Alito and Thomas essentially recycled their previous objections to Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. ) However, I wrote at length about the Texas case in 2016, and upon reviewing it, I see nothing substantially different from what I would conclude about today’s decision. in both cases, it seems clear that the state was using a pretextual safety measure to restrict abortions as much as possible.  Then I wrote, Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!” Files, Legal Ethics Division

This story first came to the attention of the legal community in February, when a plaintiff in an employment discrimination suit against Chevron filed a Motion for Sanctions against Chevron’s Houston-based attorney, Dennis Duffy. It began by stating that Duffy had engaged in “a campaign of abusive and intolerable conduct that began with profanity-laced conversation” and escalated to “discriminatory slurs.” Then she alleged, things got really bad. The motion further alleged, Continue reading

Which Part Of “A Judge Shall Perform Judicial Duties Without Bias” Confuses You, Your Honor?

Here are a few provisions of the Texas Code Of Judicial Conduct:

  • From the Preamble: “Intrinsic to all sections of this Code of Judicial Conduct are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system.”
  • “A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
  • “Canon 2: Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities”
  • “A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
  • “A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.”
  • “A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not knowingly permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.”
  • A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra- judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge..
  • “A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge’s impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.”

OK, now you’ve read  that, as presumably all Texas judges have. Now, if you were Bexar judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, would your judicial ethics alarms start sounding as you considered displaying a rainbow flag in your courtroom, using a rainbow pen, a rainbow mouse pad and a robe with a rainbow-style strip of Mexican blanket design? Continue reading

I Have To Ask: Is This Really A Hate Crime?

Jose L. Gomez, 19,  is accused of stabbing three members of a family of four, including a 2-year-old and 6-year-old child,  that he encountered in a Texas store. The family was Asian -American, and the FBI’s report states “The suspect indicated that he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with coronavirus.”

Gomez has been charged with three counts of attempted capital murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Federal prosecutors are considering adding federal hate crime charges.

Obviously these are serious crimes, but why are they hate crimes? As I read the facts, no hate was necessarily involved, just fear and stupidity. Continue reading

Should Abortions Be Ruled “Non-Essential” Medical Procedures In The Pandemic Crisis? An Ethics Decision-Making Exercise

News Item:

Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, setting off a new front in the fight over abortion rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Both states said they were trying to preserve extremely precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.

But abortion rights activists said that abortions should be counted as essential and that people could not wait for the procedure until the pandemic was over.

On Monday, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, clarified that the postponement of surgeries and medical procedures announced by Gov. Greg Abbott over the weekend included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Failure to do so, he said, could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.

Oh-oh.

Is abortion truly a non-essential medical procedure? Is it ethical to treat it as one? This is a perfect storm of an ethics conflict colliding with an ethical dilemma, with so many of the factors that confound ethical analysis present. For example, is the shortage of beds and the stresses on medical services really the only factors being considered by those in making the policy decisions in Texas and Ohio? Is the pandemic really a cover, in whole or in part, for other motives, like a desire to limit abortions generally for as long as possible? Is the ethical response by a pregnant woman to comply with the policy, even to the point of giving birth. There are many ethics decisions involved here.

Let’s just focus on one of them, the decision to call abortions non-essential procedures, and run it through one of the ethics decision-making systems. I’m going to use Professor Laura Nash’s 12 Questions, from her Harvard Business Review article, “Ethics without the Sermon” (1981)]

1. Have you defined the problem accurately?

In other words, “What’s going on here?” Continue reading

Monday Morning Warm-Up, 3/2/2020: Idling, Stigmatizing, Lying

Good Monday!

1. Totalitarianism watch.  Idling one’s car for longer than three minutes, or more than one minute while adjacent to a school, is illegal in New York City. There have been anti-idling laws since 1972, but they were previously examples of the law being used to encourage conduct rather than enforce it. Now, with socialist Bill de Blasio at the city’s helm, the laws are being enforced with a vengeance.

The city is offering bounties to  citizens who report their neighbors, for example. “If you witness a vehicle idling illegally, you can potentially receive a reward for your enforcement efforts through our Citizens Air Complaint Program” says a city website.

Nice.

The theory is that forcing people into not idling their car will mitigate climate change, just like forcing people to ride bicycles and to stop having children when the Left gains sufficient power and the Green New Deal is within reach. Cars idling for no reason is a pet peeve of mine, particularly when they idle in a parking space with cars waiting while the driver checks his or her messages on a cell phone. There are, however, good reasons for idling. I have idled while recharging a dead battery for example. I have idled in sub-freezing weather to keep the car warm while my wife, who had a cold, ran into a 7-11 to buy some cough medicine. The blunt boot of the law does not belong in this matter, like many matters that today’s progressives and socialists want to turn into government edicts.

Oh—the PR geniuses in de Blasio-land decided that the ideal spokesperson for the anti-idling campaign is washed up rocker Billy Idol. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: USA Today Op-Ed Writer Elvia Diaz

“Jack Wilson is a hero alright. It took him only six seconds to kill a gunman at a Texas church, saving countless lives. Unfortunately, that kind of split-second heroism has been turned into a PR tool by gun advocates…. he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. And that’s terrifying.”

Elvia Diaz of the  Arizona Republic, USA Today, in a Jan. 1 , 2020  USA Today op-ed.

The paper, soon to be defunct (thankfully—I would not be shocked if it didn’t last the year), has been furiously flamed on social media for this obnoxious and telling commentary. It doesn’t take much, beyond respect for American citizens and the Second Amendment, to pinpoint the ethics illness on display here.

Every mass shooting instantly is politicized into a repetition of the anti-gun propaganda that has become a reflex on the Left and in the mainstream media since the Sandy Hook school shooting. The disappointment among this group over a shooting being foiled by a lawful gun owner has been nauseating. The right to own guns is the right to self-defense, and not to have to depend solely on  the government for self-preservation.

The result in White Settlement should be used to counter the efforts to strip gun rights from citizens, because there are many benefits to society of private gun ownership.

The op-ed perfectly summarizes the media’s distrust of Americans and personal liberty. It’s so terrifying that those owning guns, and prepared to use them lawfully, haven’t been certified as worthy of self-defense rights by obtrusive government overseers. What an ugly bias.

The social media reactions have been impressively on point… Continue reading

Monday Ethics Pot The End Of The Rainbow, 12/30/19: The Post Turns On Maddow, Second Amendment Rights In Action, And A Fast Food Fiasco

There‘s a huge rainbow outside!

Either its the sunshine coming through the just lifted rain, or the LBGTG army has taken over!

1.  But..but..the narrative! On Sunday, a man entered a church in White Settlement, Texas, and started firing on worshippers, until he was shot dead by a member of the church security team. Two worshipers died.  Thettacker was only able to get off two shots before being shot by a security guard ,reportedly an ex-FBI agent, who was an excellent marksman.

Several other armed congregants at the West Freeway Church of Christ grabbed their own firearms and prepared to shoot if necessary.

A 2017 law passed by the Republicans in the Texas legislature allowed church goers to carry licensed guns, on the theory that gun-free zones wouldn’t deter killers and criminals, which yu would think would be self-evident. Democrats and allies of Michael Bloomberg condemned the law.

Where’s that “if it only saves one life” rationalization that President Obama was so fond of? Continue reading

No Way Out? The Rodney Reed Affair [UPDATED!]

Rodney Reed was convicted by a Texas jury in 1998 and sentenced to die for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites two years earlier. On April 23, 1996, Stites’s body had been found on the side of a country road outside of Bastrop, Texas. Marks on the woman’s  neck led investigators to conclude that she had been strangled, and she had had sexual relations with someone before she was killed.

Police tested the recovered DNA against that of Reed, then 29 years old.  There was no other evidence tying Reed to the murder, other than the fact that he initially lied to police, claiming that he didn’t know the victim. Finally, Reed said that he was having a sexual affair with her, and that the two had sex a couple of days before Stites was found dead. The witnesses Reed’s defense called to confirm the relationship between the two were not convincing, for varying reasons. It didn’t help Reed’s cause that he was regarded as a serial sex offender, with many arrests on his record.

As The Intercept explains in detail, the case against Reed has deteriorated over time, and was never strong to begin with. Many forensic pathologists have concluded that the verdict lacked scientific support. The medical examiner who conducted Stites’s autopsy has recanted his testimony. In 2018, both a state crime lab and a private DNA lab undercut the testimony of their own employees who had testified at Reed’s trial.  Nonethless, Reed is scheduled to be executed in five days, on the 20th of November.

The new evidence indicating that he was wrongly convicted has not been reviewed by a court and apparently will not be because of the judicial principle of finality, the very old concept that hold that legal disputes at some point achieve a resolution that cannot be appealed and must be regarded as final. The principle is deemed necessary because without it, the public could not trust in the meaning of any law, or the result of any legal process. It is a utilitarian principle: individual cases may have unjust results occasionally, but the system as a whole benefits from the certainty of finality.

When the finality principle will result in the execution of a someone who appears to have been wrongly convicted, however, the gap between law, justice and ethics is difficult to accept.  The Supreme Court will consider Reed’s case today. There is also a plea to Abbott and to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to intervene.

The ABA has also made an appeal to the Board, via a letter from American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez.  Continue reading

Worst Anti-Gun, Anti-Gun Violence Activist Ever

The one thing I can admire in activists, even those whose agendas I find wrong-headed and irresponsible, is integrity. Are they genuinely passionate about what they advocate? Do they really believe the arguments they put forth? Will they adhere to their stated principles even when it becomes profitable or convenient to reject them? I may think an activist is ill-informed, addicted to demagoguery and not very bright (Rep. Octavia-Cortez comes immediately to mind), but I will always, perhaps grudgingly, appreciate his or her passion, dedication, and persistence, if they are accompanied by integrity.

And then we have activists like Ashley Auzenne, 39, a Texas mother who fought for stricter gun control laws and an end to gun violence until last week, when she used a gun to kill herself and her three young children,  Parrish, 11, Eleanor, 9, and Lincoln, 7.

I think it’s fair to call someone who says she wants to  to end violence (Auzenne’s Facebook profile pictures were accompanied with the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence) and then engages in it herself a hypocrite, a liar who publicly pretended to hold one view while personally being capable of engaging in the exact conduct she condemned when it suited her own perceived needs.

Perhaps, on the other hand, we should regard her as the real life equivalent of the villains in various TV shows and movies like 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” the third installment of the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” franchise. In that movie, a tech whiz who had failed in his efforts to persuade the government that crucial systems were vulnerable to hacker attacks sets out to prove his point by becoming a cyber-terrorist who takes control of government and commercial computers across the United States to launch a “fire sale” disabling  the nation’s infrastructure. Continue reading