Tag Archives: trust

Responsible And Necessary: The Appointment Of A Special Counsel

The Justice Department appointed Robert S. Mueller III (above), a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to handle the Russia probe.

I am reading conservative pundits fuming over this development for a number of reasons, some of them valid and troubling. However, there is no good argument to be made that a Special Counsel isn’t necessary now.

Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained his decision to make the appointment (remember, he is acting AG in the Russian investigation, because Jeff Sessions was bullied and hectored into recusing himself, also unavoidable):

“In my capacity as acting Attorney General, I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a Special Counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command.”

Exactly. As for the last sentence, President Trump has no one to blame but himself. His own, typical, blundering, blathering ways created this atmosphere—that and “Deep State” leaks calculated to undermine him, and a news media feasting on those leaks like sharks on chum.

It is being argued that you can’t appoint a special prosecutor unless there is a finding that crimes have been committed. Here are the relevant sections of the law:

§ 600.1 Grounds for appointing a Special Counsel.

The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and –

(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and

(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.

§ 600.2 Alternatives available to the Attorney General.

When matters are brought to the attention of the Attorney General that might warrant consideration of appointment of a Special Counsel, the Attorney General may:

(a) Appoint a Special Counsel;

(b) Direct that an initial investigation, consisting of such factual inquiry or legal research as the Attorney General deems appropriate, be conducted in order to better inform the decision; or

(c) Conclude that under the circumstances of the matter, the public interest would not be served by removing the investigation from the normal processes of the Department, and that the appropriate component of the Department should handle the matter. If the Attorney General reaches this conclusion, he or she may direct that appropriate steps be taken to mitigate any conflicts of interest, such as recusal of particular officials.

I don’t read the law so narrowly. The law requires that there be a determination that a criminal investigation is warranted, not that crimes have been committed. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Legal Profession Appears To Have A Serious Character Standards Problem…

I refer you, for context, to the recent post about Shon Hopwood, Georgetown Law Center’s former bank-robber, former federal prisoner professor, who was welcomed into membership in the D.C. bar…like me.

Now comes word that Tarra Simmons, a third-year law student, convicted felon and former drug addict, who in December won a Skadden Fellowship to help people recently released from prison, was told by the Washington State Bar Association that she did not possess the character to make her a trustworthy lawyer.

Tarra was a magna cum laude law school graduate, and co-chairs Washington’s Statewide Re-Entry Council.  She recently received a gubernatorial appointment to the state’s Public Defense Advisory Committee, and was selected by the dean of Seattle University School of Law to receive the school’s dean’s medal this year.

Nevertheless, the character and fitness board’s vote against Simmons was not even close, at 6-3.

A registered nurse for 11 years, Simmons became addicted to prescription drugs and methamphetamine after her father died, as she self-medicated for depression. In 2011, she was charged with felony theft, drug possession and gun possession, pleaded guilty, served 20 months in state prison. She says she  wants to assist former justice-involved individuals, as  a lawyer who has lived their experience, so they “can overcome barriers and rejoin society.”

But Tarra cannot cannot take the Washington Bar examination without getting a positive  character and fitness recommendation, and that looks unlikely. She’s appealing to the Washington Supreme Court, but traditionally that forum is tougher in assessing the  character and fitness of  potential admittees.

I think her course now is obvious: move to the District of Columbia. The bar there will surely see no reason to doubt her character.

After all, it’s not like she robbed a bank.

__________________________

Pointer: ABA Journal

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Quiz: The Bank Robber Professor

A few weeks ago the Washington Post published the unusual story of  Shon Hopwood, a member of the D.C. Bar and  a tenure-track faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center. He spent 11 years in federal prison for robbing banks n Nebraska—that’s banks, plural—became a jailhouse “lawyer,” got  a scholarship to law school, was somehow approved as meeting the character provisions required for bar membership, and now amuses his Georgetown law students with tales about how when he played basketball in federal prison, he had to carry a shank in case his team started to lose.

You should read his story, which I’m sure will enrich Hopwood in  a movie deal, if it hasn’t already, but you shouldn’t have to read it before you answer today’s Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Should a convicted bank robber be teaching law students?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Workplace

More Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey

It’s all this guy’s fault…

I have read the initial comments on the original post-–which I interrupted my viewing of a Red Sox game to write, just so you know how dedicated I am—had some additional thoughts and processed some new data. Here are some more observations:

1. The New York Times biased reporting is even worse than I thought. Today’s print edition has a “Saturday Night Massacre” size headline screaming:

TRUMP FIRES COMEY AMID RUSSIA INQUIRY

This is deceit, and, as I noted before, yellow journalism. It is technically accurate, but misleading and false anyway. Trump also fired Comey in May,  “amid” the North Korea crisis, and while the Orioles were playing the Nationals. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Comey’s firing had anything to do with the Russia investigation except this: Comey thoroughly botched the last major investigation the FBI was engaged in.

The Times goes further, adding another above the fold story headlined, “The President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate.” Ah, the old “many say/many hear/many think” ploy—an unethical journalism classic. Let’s seed the unfair suspicion without taking responsibility for it! Hey, we didn’t say we thought that, just that others do!

2. Many have noted that President Hillary would have fired Comey within seconds of taking office, or as close to that as possible. This is doubtlessly true. It is also true that Republicans would probably be attacking her with as much fury and blatant hypocrisy as Democrats are attacking the firing now.

But doing something unethical in an alternate universe is still not as damning is doing it in this one.

3. I have been working on a “100 Days” overview of the ethics score since President Trump took office. In general, it is both remarkable and disturbing how closely the President’s actual performance tracks with my expectations, as explained over the last two years. One aspect of this mostly negative assessment that is undeniably positive, however is that President Trump, unlike his predecessor, does not fear making decisions, and makes them despite the amount of criticism he knows will be coming, especially from the news media. (The previous President knew that he had nothing to fear from the news media, since it was invested in making him seem successful and wise even when he wasn’t.)

The firing of Comey is a perfect example, as was the decision to enforce, belatedly, Obama’s “red line” in Syria.

4. Nowhere near enough focus has landed on Rod Rosenstein (left) , the  deputy attorney general who was only confirmed a couple of weeks ago ( April 25, 2017). Rosenstein is an impressive lawyer with a long, distinguished  record in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and authored  the  “Memorandum to the Attorney General” on the subject of “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” This articulates the best reasons for firing Comey, and any critic who argues that it made sense to keep him on is tasked with rebutting Rosenstein’s brief. Good luck with that.
Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Workplace

Ethics Observations On The Firing of FBI Director James Comey

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey today. Rod Rosenstein, the new deputy AG who replaced Sally Yates, prepared a memo that recommended the firing, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions concurred.

Ethics Observations:

1. Here’s how the New York Times described the firing in its story’s opening sentence:

President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the law enforcement official leading a wide-ranging criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

That’s pretty despicable, and as blatant an example of intentional negative spin as you are likely to see, even from the Times. There were so many justifications for firing Comey that the mind boggles. Attaching the act to the one elicit reason for firing Comey is just yellow journalism, and nothing but. The Times is really a shameless partisan organ now.

2. Should Comey have been fired? Of course. He didn’t have to be fired, but to say that at this point he was not trusted by either political party and was widely viewed as incompetent would be an understatement  The fact that his testimony before Congress last week was not only riddled with errors, but riddled with errors that made headlines, was reason enough to fire him.

From the Washington Post:
Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Hero: Pop Star Nicki Minaj

I wouldn’t cross the street to watch over-the-top, beautiful but annoyingly nasal pop singer Nicki Minaj perform, but I’d walk miles to shake her hand.

Over the weekend, the mega-star answered Twitter questions about a lip syncing contest using her “Regret in Your Tears” music video. One audacious follower asked if the singer would pay for her college tuition. It never hurts to ask, right?  Minaj not only agreed but offered to pay the tuition for other fans, tweeting,

Show me straight A’s that I can verify w/ur school and I’ll pay it. Who wants to join THAT contest?!?!🤷🏽‍♀️ Dead serious. Shld I set it up?

And she did set it up. Requests came in from all quarters, containing transcripts and student loan balances.

“U want to go to college but can’t? How much do u need to get u in school? Is that the only thing stopping u?” Minaj asked an immigrant fan who said she could not afford classes. Minaj  sent the money. She also assisted a single mother who needed $500 for her remaining tuition, and sent $6,000 to cover the fall semester for another Twitter follower, including his room and board, courses and meal plan.

Yes, I am keeping my fingers crossed that Minaj’s spontaneous outburst of kindness and charity isn’t exploited by scammers. She’s certainly laying herself wide open to be misled. Yet one cannot be generous and compassionate and not be vulnerable to the worst in society. I’m sure Nicki knows that. To her credit, she is willing to court the risk to change some lives for the better.

She’s a deserving Ethics Hero, and boy, I needed one today.

_____________________

Pointer: Alexander Cheezem

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Social Media

The Flint Water Bills: Is This The Most Outrageous Ethics Story Of The Year?

“What do you mean it’s brown and poisonous? Water is water! Pay up.”

This story out of Flint, Michigan is so wrong, so astoundingly and obviously unethical, such a satire of government ineptitude at its worst and bureaucratic soullessness at its most damning, that I literally didn’t believe that it could be anything but a momentary hiccup, and that it would be resolved by the state, the city, an elected leader with guts and the sense God gave a mollusk, within a day or two, after the voices of millions were heard screaming. “WHAT????”

I was wrong. You want to know why it is insane to place your freedom, health, livelihood and survival and that of your families in the hands of government? THIS is why. Exactly this.

Thousands of Flint, Michigan residents risk losing their homes if they don’t pay their overdue water bills  less than three years since the start of a prolonged, botched, water safety crisis that led to extremely dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water pipes. In a move that will stand through the ages as the epitome of shamelessness and gall,  the Flint government sent threatening letters to more than 8,000 residents warning them they will face a tax lien if they do not pay water and sewage bills they have avoided for six months or more. Residents have until May 19 to pay the delinquent bills, and after that, a process begins that could end with foreclosure on their homes. Flint sends these letters annually to property owners whose payments are at least six months late, but skipped this process in 2016, given that the water the residents weren’t paying for was only technically water at all. The better label was “poison.” This year’s letters cover two years of past-due balances. Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership