Of COURSE Jill Biden Calling Herself “Dr.” Is Pompous And Misleading, But The Mainstream Media Will Defend Her Anyway


Let me stipulate that I detest titles, and I distrust people who insist on using titles. My father was particularly contemptuous of non-medical doctors who used the appellation “Dr”. I had a history professor in high school who made us call him “Dr. Arthur,” because he had a PhD in history. My father was so annoyed when he heard that that my mother wouldn’t let him go to the parent-teacher meeting with the “Dr.” for fear Dad would say something. I have a number of friends with PhDs, and none call themselves “doctors.” Who would they be trying to impress? Who would they be trying to fool?

I guess I could call myself “doctor”; I have a juris doctor degree, after all. As arrogant and smug as so many lawyers are, I have never known any who dared put “Dr.” before their name. It’s bad enough that so many put “Esquire” after it. The incoming First Lady, however, feels compelled to call herself “Dr.” and have others do so, and she isn’t a PhD: at most, she’s as much of a doctor as I am. Her degree is an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware. I’m so impressed.

Actually, I couldn’t care less. If someone is so determined to put on airs or be deferred to that they insist on being called “Dr.,” I’ll accommodate them, though they might not like what I’m thinking. I even called “Judge Napolitano” “judge” when I met him, though he’s not a judge.

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About Fox News’ Fake Judge

In a post on the Legal Ethics Forum, not as active as it once was but still one of the best legal ethics sites around, Legal ethicist and law professor Steve Lubet clarifies something I have always wondered about, and like a lazy slug, never investigated.

Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano, most recently in the news for claiming that the British intelligence service GCHQ  colluded with President Obama to conduct surveillance on the Trump staff during the 2016 campaign, is always called “Judge Napolitano” during his appearances.  Lubet points out that he’s not a judge any more. Napolitano once served on the New Jersey Superior Court, but resigned in 1995 and has not held judicial office for more than two decades. It is apparently at Napolotano’s insistence that he is always addressed  as “Judge”  in Fox. His website, JudgeNap.com, refers to him as “Judge Napolitano” throughout, as does his bio on the Fox News site.

Lubet notes that The American Bar Association has held that  the use of  judicial titles by former judges practicing law is misleading and unethicalin connection with law practice.  ABA Formal Opinion 95-391 says that continued “use of the title is misleading because it may be misunderstood by the public as suggesting some type of special influence” or “to create an unjustified expectation.” In fact, said the ABA, “there appears to be no reason for such use of the title other than to create such an expectation.” Of course, Napolitano isn’t practicing law when he bloviates on Fox News, so it isn’t a Rules violation, but the Judge label is still misleading

The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, Lubet found,  goes further by decreeing that it is only ethical for a former judge to use the titles  “Judge” or “The Honorable” if they are preceded by the word “retired” or “former,” and the rule does not limit this caveat to ex-judges actively practicing law. Again, Napolitano is not out of compliance, because he is not subject to the Ohio Rules. That doesn’t make what he calls himself strictly accurate, or sufficiently accurate. (I confess, I have had a bias against such things ever since I suffered through a year with an insufferable  high school history teacher who called himself (and insisted that we call him)  “Dr. Arthur” because he had a PhD in history.) Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Duchess of York’s Website And The Duke of Plazatoro

The category is Celebrity Ethics, Royal Ethics or Marketing Ethics, depending on your point of view. Unfortunately for ethical clarity, how you answer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz may depend on which category you choose.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, is embarrassing the Royal Family again, only this time it isn’t by throwing snowballs at photographers or by not being as demure and lovely as the late Princess Diana. This time, the self-exiled and divorced Fergie is trading on her title to make a living as an internet huckster. She has a website that peddles a juicer for weight loss and “The Perfecter Ultra”:

The Perfecter Ultra Heated Styling Brush combines innovative ionic technology with pure black tourmaline heating plates for ultimate convenience in achieving salon quality hairstyles at home. Create silky straight styles or beautiful bouncing curls, reduce frizzies or add volume to thinning hair, the Perfecter Ultra is the remarkable styling tool that does it all.

The Duchess has also been appearing on QVC, the cable shopping network where shopping addicts, lonely recluses and easy marks hang out. Among the Royals, with whom she is already on the outs, this is considered…unseemly. Concludes Tom Sykes at the Daily Beast:

“Her website majors in its attempts to cast her shill as public service, saying, “One of my missions in life now is to help people fight their weight challenges so they can live longer, healthier and happier lives. Take it from me: you can do it!”  But the truth is, Fergie is selling her title, and getting paid a no-doubt healthy fee for her promotional activities.”

There’s little doubt that “selling her title” is a fair description.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

As Duchess of York, does Sarah Ferguson have an ethical obligation to behave like the symbol of the British Commonwealth that she and the rest of the Royal Family is, or can she ethically use her title as she chooses, including to sell junk on the internet?

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E-Mail Revelations: Prof. Ellen Lewin’s Unprofesssional Intolerance

Ellen Lewin, a University of Iowa Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, was so enraged by an e-mail invitation sent to the entire campus by the student Republican group that she fired off an e-mail in reply that said, succinctly,


The young Republicans circulated the e-mail, and now many people  and groups are calling for her dismissal. The incident has raised more ethical questions than mere civility. Continue reading