Ethics Dunce: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

"Hey, when you leave, will you ask the bar rep with the gun outside my office what a good job I did for you? I can get bonus credit!"

“Hey, when you leave, will you tell the bar rep with the gun outside my office what a good job I did for you? I can get bonus credit!”

Speaking before an audience at the American Law Institute, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor said that she advocated mandatory pro bono service ( that is, for no compensation) to poor citizens by all lawyers. “If I had my way, I would make pro bono service a requirement,” she said.

“I believe in forced labor.”

This is the quality of thought that we get on the highest court in the land, that must decided our most difficult, controversial and society-molding legal. This is what we end up with when a Justice is appointed in order to check off group identify boxes for “diversity” rather than on the basis of ability.

Sotomayor made the comment at the American Law Institute’s annual meeting in Washington, in response to a question from institute director Richard Revesz about the problem of improving access to low-cost and effective legal services for low-income individuals. I’m pretty sure the “forced labor” comment was delivered as a joke, but it looks terrible in print, and immediately drew a predictable response from conservative pundits. “YOU BELONG TO THE STATE” quipped Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds.
Continue reading

Is Spouting Nonsense On Talk Radio Unethical?

I know Swift; Swift was a friend of mine. Jan Mickelson is no Jonathan Swift.

I know Swift; Swift was a friend of mine. Jan Mickelson is no Jonathan Swift.

I can’t resist using Media Matters as a source on an ethics blog: the irony is too delicious.

Linked to the e-mailed question, “How outrageous can a radio talk show host be, ethically?” comes a link to this nonsensical gibberish spit out by local Iowa right-winger Jan Mickelson, who suggested on his radio show that illegal immigrants who refuse to leave should be warned, and then used as slaves. Now, Media Matters looks for this junk because its unethical goal is to make the false case that all progressives are angels sent from a Godless heaven with the Only Right and Good Way, that an unethical or mistaken progressive is a contradiction in terms, and that all opponents of these paragons of virtue are cretins, crooks and demons.  Thus an act like Mickelson’s  is highlighted—I had never heard of him, for which I am quite grateful—to show what a typical Republican and conservative thinks. You know: a crazy person.

To be fair to MM, which, of course, believes that Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was perfect, and that every word she has uttered about it is gospel truth, this guy is pretty outrageous:

 MICKELSON: Now here is what would work. And I was asked by an immigration open border’s activist a couple of weeks ago, how I would get all the illegals here in the state of Iowa to leave. “Are you going to call the police every time you find an illegal, are you going to round them up and put them in detention centers?”

I said, “No you don’t have to do any of that stuff.”

“Well you going to invite them to leave the country and leave Iowa?”

And I said, “Well, sort of.”

“Well how you going to do it, Mickelson? You think you’re so smart. How would you get thousands of illegals to leave Iowa?”

Well, I said, “Well if I wanted to do that I would just put up some signs.”

“Well what would the signs say?”

I said, “Well I’d would put them on the end of the highway, on western part of the interstate system, and I’d put them on the eastern side of the state, right there on the interstate system, and in the north on the Minnesota border, and on the south Kansas and Missouri border and I would just say this: ‘As of this date’ — whenever we decide to do this — ‘as of this date, 30–‘ this is a totally arbitrary number, ’30 to 60 days from now anyone who is in the state of Iowa that who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa.’ So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.

“Well how would you apply that logic to what Donald Trump is trying to do? Trying to get Mexico to pay for the border and for the wall?”

“Same way. We say, ‘Hey, we are not going to make Mexico pay for the wall, we’re going to invite the illegal Mexicans and illegal aliens to build it. If you have come across the border illegally, again give them another 60-day guideline, you need to go home and leave this jurisdiction, and if you don’t you become property of the United States, and guess what? You will be building a wall. We will compel your labor. You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker. Cool!’

Later, when a caller challenges him, saying that this sounds like slavery, this exchange transpires… Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS: Whales Aren’t Slaves! PETA Shocked!

"Thank you! And for my next number, 'Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen!'"

PETA’s cretinous and offensive lawsuit equating Sea World’s whales with enslaved human beings—just the latest in the organization’s irresponsible “look at us!” tactics—was laughed out of court, as everybody but a breathless NPR interviewer knew it would be. This was yet another example of a lawsuit that any common sense-imbued layman would accurately call frivolous, but a bar association discipline committee would not. A lawyer can ethically take on a lawsuit he or she knows is stupid, foolish, silly, or a “hail Mary” shot, as long as there is a good faith belief that it might/could possibly/ gee, with a little luck and they don’t think about it too carefully prevail. And looking at some of the rulings that come down from various benches and verdicts that creep out of some jury boxes, that means almost no case is unethically frivolous in a legal sense. That doesn’t mean that it is responsible and right for lawyers to help plaintiffs like PETA bring such wasteful lawsuits, just that it isn’t a breach of professional ethics to do so. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Slaves, Whales, Humphrey the Hippo, and Captive Animal Ethics”

Marleen contributes a short and pointed comment to today’s post about PETA’s lawsuit alleging, absurdly, that Sea World’s performing whales are victims of slavery under the definition in the Thirteenth Amendment. Her commentary touches on a rich theme that has been explored on Ethics Alarms in the past: the obligation of issue advocates not to undermine the credibility of an important ethical argument by associating it with unfair, irresponsible or dishonest tactics.

Here is Marlene’s’ Comment of the Day, on “Slaves, Whales, Humphrey the Hippo, and Captive Animal Ethics”;

“PETA makes it difficult for me as a proponent of animal welfare. Pointing to PETA’s ridiculous antics (and this latest one really takes the cake) has become a trump card or Godwin’s Law of sorts when I occasionally discuss animal welfare topics with people. Rants about PETA ensue and the conversation is effectively killed.

“It distresses me that the only strategy they can come up with is to bastardize the courts and the Constitution for some publicity. Shout from the rooftops that captive cetaceans don’t afford us a true ability for observation and study because of the massive (and documented!) ill effects on their health and that it debases us to sacrifice them for our amusement. Play videos of orcas turning on their handlers non-stop. Don’t pull out a cockamamie argument that’s deeply insulting to any peoples familiar with true subjugation.”

Slaves, Whales, Humphrey the Hippo, and Captive Animal Ethics

The beginning of the end for this barbaric practice began with the publication of "Uncle Shamu's Cabin"...

Whether or not it is excessively cruel to killer whales to keep them at Sea World and train them to do tricks is an interesting ethical issue that turns on utilitarian principles: are whales as a species better served by the public learning to appreciate them through close contact in zoos than by having them be accessible only in the wild, and does this result justify keeping some whales in captivity, performing like seals? Good question. What isn’t a good question is posed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s lawsuit against Sea World, suggesting that it violates the Thirteenth Amendment to keep performing whales, because the practice constitutes slavery.

It’s a stupid question. It’s a silly question. It’s an offensive question, equating aquatic mammals with African-Americans. Continue reading