Comment Of The Day: “Fun With Witch Hunts! If The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Has To Run Over Someone, Roy Moore Is A Great Choice, But Still…[UPDATED]”

OK, it could have been worse…

 I occasionally will vary from EA’s usual practice of publishing outstanding comments as Comments Of The Day to select one of the comments that is illuminating in a different way. This one, for example. Despite the Washington Post’s story featuring four romantic targets of Roy Moore from when he was a thirtyish Assistant DA who ranged from 18 to (oh-oh) 14, many of Moore’s conservative, evangelical, anti-gay, anti-US Supreme Court fans in Alabama…

….don’t seem fazed a bit. How can this be? The comment by Kat gives us a troubling glimpse into a) the kind of reasoning that leads to incompetents like Moore reaching high elected office; b) the typical level of discourse in the comments of most blogs and websites; c) the comments that I typically veto as not adding anything to the discussion here, and d) the end product of the U.S. public school system.

Here is Kat’s Comment of the Day, and yes, I sure as shootin’ will be back at the end…

Are you serious it has to be true because Moore is a bad guy why because he has Ethics and a Christian, give me a break. If the allegations are true that this girl has accuse pastors of the same thing then truth will come out! And to be credible I don’t believe her to be credible whatsoever if this horrible thing happened to her at 14 you don’t wait 38 years to say anything you tell your parents right away you tell the school made an interest in the other women all work for the Democrats and Hillary. I’ve seen many allegations against other Republicans come to be false! I am a woman I know women can say anything doesn’t mean it’s true ! To say you believe this just because you don’t like the guy try actually finding some evidence that’s what I noticed this country doesn’t do it believes any stupid thing someone says without actual any evidence and that’s dangerous ! When I find is not credible if someone waits for women wait until the month before the election and come out with us for 38 years no one says anything give me a break !

***

I’m back! Continue reading

Fun With Witch Hunts! If The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Has To Run Over Someone, Roy Moore Is A Great Choice, But Still…[UPDATED!]

From the New York Times:

“Republicans in Washington seemed near panic Thursday in the light of a news report in which four women said Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat in Alabama and an evangelical Christian, had made sexual or romantic overtures to them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said Mr. Moore should step aside ahead of the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations were true.”

“Sexual or romantic overtures,” eh? We are now officially entering the Witch Hunt Zone. Bill Cosby has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexually harassing many women in the workplace, as well as committing sexual assault and rape. Kevin Spacey was first accused of throwing a 14-year old boy onto a bed,and laying on top of him until the boy managed to get away—30 years ago. Now a controversial politician—he’s controversial because so many Republicans somehow think he is qualified to be an elected official when he clearly isn’t, and the only controversy is over whether they have no scruples, or are merely too dumb to be let outside without a leash—is being accused of “pursuing” three girls ranging in age between 16 and 18 and one girl who was 14 almost 40 years ago, when he was in his early thirties.

Unlike in the cases of Weinstein, James Toback, and most (I haven’t waded through all of them) of the Hollywood types now riding the Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, only one crime is being claimed against Moore. It is also worth considering that the age of legal consent in Alabama is 16. A thirty year-old hitting on teens that young is certainly creepy, but it’s not illegal, and if Alabama says its legal, it is also saying it isn’t so creepy that the State wants to discourage it.

Thus we are left with just one accuser, Leigh Corfman, whose accusation involves alleged wrongdoing by Moore.. She  says she was 14 years old in 1979 when  Roy Moore introduced himself to her and her mother as they were sitting outside an Alabama courthouse. Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time. He  offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.  Alone with her, Moore asked Corfman for her phone number, and later asked her out on a date. (We do not know if he asked her age.) On the first date, Corfman says, Moore drove her to his home  about 30 minutes away, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On the second and final date, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. Corfman says she then asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

Ew. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition

Good Morning!

1  Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),

“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”

Comments Jonathan Turley,

So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs.  This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause.  As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling.  As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures.  It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing. 

But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.

2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…

 

No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into  “Look at me! I’m an idiot!”  The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively.  Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”

Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.

Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,

“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial.  In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”

What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal.  Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading

Someone Needs To Remind Poor California That It Is Just Another State, And In Need Of Therapy

It isn’t just your Democratic friends that Donald Trump’s election and presidency have caused to obsess in an unhealthy manner. The entire state of California just can’t move on with life. Bitter and angry, it is somewhere between the second and third stages of grief ( denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).  If the state had knees, it would be going down on one, and screaming.

The legislature has passed a law requiring that Presidential candidates who want to appear on the California ballot would have to release their previous five years of tax returns. Tax returns are part of the impeachment crowd’s imaginary smoking gun evidence package. As with the emoluments clause, the Russian conspiracy theory and the “he’s not sufficiently like other Presidents so he must be insane” argument, the Trump-Obsessed are certain that if we just knew the truth about what was in the President’s tax returns, reversing the election would just be a few creative steps away.

Senate Bill 149 passed on September 15, and it is waiting for Governor Brown’s signature. Brown has not always been a fan of releasing candidate tax returns, like his own, for example.  He released his tax returns in his first two gubernatorial races, but not in 2010 or 2014 , after his opponents refused to  release theirs. I’m sure Brown will sign the bill, though. He has shown less and less inclination to restrain his increasingly alienated state’s political over-reach. Continue reading

The Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Run-Off: The Worst Choice Ever [UPDATED]

And you thought having to choose between Hillary and Donald Trump was bad!

The upcoming Republican run-off for the special election to choose a successor to Alabama previous GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, is as bad as it gets. Whoever wins is certain to be elected in super-red Alabama over Democrat Doug Jones, but one GOP candidate is corrupt and absurd, and the other is absurd, a fanatic and a habitual scofflaw. Both can be counted upon to immediately lower the ethical and intellectual level of the U.S. Senate, and normally I would assume that only electing a horseshoe crab or some other lower species could do the latter, while nothing short of sending Hillary Clinton back there could accomplish the former. That Alabama voters would allow their state’s seat in the U.S. Senate to depend on a run-off between these two examples of the worst of the U.S. politics bestiary doesn’t merely show that the state is backwards, it shows that its voters deserve one of these jerks. The rest of us, however, do not.

Let’s look at the two contestants, shall we? First current Senator Luther Strange, whose best feature is his name. Allow me to save you a click by re-posting a substantial section from February’s post about him:

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure.

Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that  he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.

Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.

With the wolves gathering at  his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.

Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?

I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable.   There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.

Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure.  “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original  impeachment motion to a vote.  “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”

For this to have been a pre-arranged  quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?

Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events  that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit  that he had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”

The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,

‘I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.’

Nah.

Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.

Strange!

Now normally I would say that anyone—Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dormammu—is a preferable U.S. Senate choice than this shameless, ambitious hack. Roy Moore, however, is a piece of work. The one-time kickboxer and full time fundamentalist Christian fanatic first warranted Ethics Alarms notice as an Incompetent Elected Official in 2014, and his recognition came that late only because I viewed his stand-off over displaying the Ten Commandments in his court room and trying to turn Alabama justice into a theocracy too ridiculous to write about (and Ethics Alarms didn’t exist then.) Continue reading

Justice Ginsberg Has Reached Her “What The Hell” Stage, But That Doesn’t Mean It Can Extend To Ethics

ginsberg-jabot

Justice Ginsberg has been speaking out lately in intemperate fashion, first about Donald Trump, then about Colin Kaepernick. In both cases she received immediate criticism and issued apologies. It’s clear, however, that the liberal feminist icon, now 84 and in ill health, has reached the point in life where she feels she doesn’t need to be especially vigilant about what she says, a bit like Estelle Getty’s character Sophia on “The Golden Girls.” After all, what can anyone do to her?

Now that would normally be the time where ethics are paramount: ethics are what you do when you know you can get away with it (among other handy definitions). Ginsberg is a member of the one court that has no official Code of Judicial Ethics,  but since it is the highest court in the land, its judges are obligated to be exemplars, not rebels.

But what the hell. Justice Ginsberg affects ornate jabots when she is on the bench: they spruce up the unisex black judicial robes. In 2014, she revealed that some of them have special significance. She wears one Jabot, for example, when she is part of a majority which is about to deliver its opinion. She wears another when she is dissenting from the majority opinion. (That’s it above.)

Wednesday morning, following the election of Donald Trump, an event that she had earlier told an interviewer would cause her to move to New Zealand, Ginsburg sported the “dissent jabot” on the bench, though no opinions were being read. Reporters quickly picked up on the code, and took the choice as an expression of opposition to Trump’s election, which it almost certainly was. She has not disabused anyone of the assumption.
Cute, clever, unprovable, and unethical. It would have been a clear breach of decorum, independence and judicial dignity for Ginsberg to wear a Hillary button on her robes, or to sport any political statement. Judges typically oppose lawyers, clients and witnesses from bringing politics into court. For a judge to do it is asking for an official reprimand. For a Supreme Court Justice to do it, it doesn’t matter what the message is, shows a lack of respect for her own profession, as well as a lack of self-control.

The gesture is also unprofessional and a breach of the duty of all high government officials to publicly show respect and support for each other. For Ginsberg to “shout out” her dissent to a Presidential election (it doesn’t matter if it is code or not) in such a prominent public forum intentionally endorses divisiveness, at a time when divisiveness is a real threat to national stability.Naturally, her feminist, progressive and Democratic fans cheer this defiance, because they don’t know judicial ethics from corn flakes. Heck, after defending Hillary Clinton for so long, they don’t know any ethics from corn flakes. Justice Ginsberg knows, however. She just doesn’t care any more.

Ah, what the hell?

Continue reading

From The “I Told You So” Files: Judge Kopf Finally Decides To “STFU”

There go de judge!

There go de judge!

Last year, I wrote a post about the intemperate blogging of Judge Richard G. Kopf, a senior district court judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Actually intemperate doesn’t quite describe it: in his criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case (the Ethics Alarms discussion is here) he wrote, “As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu” and linked to the Urban Dictionary so his less cool readers would take his meaning. I wrote:

That he did this on his blog, Hercules and the Umpire, doesn’t matter. It was in print, in public, and he’s a Federal judge. The obscenity came in the context of Judge Kopf’s criticism of the recent Hobby Lobby decision, but the context doesn’t matter either. There is no context in which it would be appropriate, judicial and ethical for a member of the judiciary to tell the Supreme Court of the United States to shut the fuck up. Nor does it matter that he used the texting code stfu rather than spelling out the words.

For a Federal judge to be openly disrespectful, uncivil and abusive to the top of the nation’s judicial branch is an assault on the rule of law, and undermines public respect for our institutions…. If the objective is to speed a complete breakdown in public respect for our institutions, divisive partisans like Kopf  and Wilson are doing a bang-up job. Neither they, nor you, nor I will like where this will lead if our leaders and officials don’t come to their senses.

This post, of all posts (I don’t think my position is rationally assailable, frankly) managed to get three commenters banned from the blog, essentially by 1) arguing that the Roberts Court doesn’t deserve the usual respect due to any court, and 2) telling me to “stfu.”  All were Judge Kopf acolytes who weren’t going to stay here to contribute anything positive, just uncivil, arrogant progressive lawyers who the judge-blogger had trained well.

Last month, a year after his obscene riff on SCOTUS, Kopf slipped again, writing that  “Senator Ted Cruz is not fit to be President.” The post wasn’t obscene; in fact it was  funny: Kopf, who had a year earlier condemned the Supreme Court for bias, argued that Cruz was not fit to be President because…

“Any rational person understands that we must accept decisions we like and decisions we don’t like when we ask the highest Court in the land to decide difficult hot button questions for an entire country. Judicial retention elections are fine for Nebraska and all the other states that have developed unique and parochial histories and traditions. However, we are talking about a federal Constitution–one that protects and covers 320 million people from Maine to Hawaii. Given the fractious divisions in our country that exist now (and many times in the past) and the obvious geographical fissures among the states (Red State/Blue State), judicial retention elections, fueled by whether a majority likes or dislikes particular Supreme Court rulings at a given point in time, is a formula for chaos and for further dividing our country into factions, a well placed fear held by the Founders.”

Wait…who is this guy? Surely he bears no relation to the sneering, potty-mouthed anti-Supreme Court critic I wrote about the last time? Continue reading