Fairness to Elizabeth Warren

Yes, even the 2020 Presidential race’s worst panderer and #1 demagogue deserves the same leave as any other lawyer, which is not to be held responsible for her client’s views and deeds. Every lawyer who ever runs for office or who comes within the cross-hairs of unethical pundits faces these attacks, which I have written about here repeatedly and pledged to address any time they come to my attention.Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations” warns the Times, hinting at hypocrisy by noting,

“Ms. Warren has ascended toward the head of the Democratic presidential pack on the strength of her populist appeal and progressive plans, which include breaking up big technology companies, free public college and a wealth tax on the richest Americans…Against that backdrop, some of Ms. Warren’s critics have seized upon her bankruptcy work for LTV and other big corporations to question the depth of her progressive bona fides. How, they wonder, could someone whose reputation is built on consumer advocacy have represented a company seeking to avoid paying for retired miners’ health care?

Here’s how: a lawyer’s personal convictions, values and beliefs are completely irrelevant to her clients or choice of clients. Those who think otherwise don’t understand legal ethics, or lawyers, or their function in society. For the heaven-knows-how many-teenth time, here is critical Rule 1.2 b of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct: Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!

Mornin’!

1. More historical ignorance to make you suicidal: Here’s Anna L.’s review of her visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield on the park’s Yelp page:

Boooorrrringggg. First off, it was nothing like the movie. All I saw were a bunch of fields and rocks. All the tourist shops, bars, and hotels in the area kept saying how I should check this place out. I kept getting confused with all of the plaques and monuments. Who was fighting who, I have no idea. The abandoned cannons looked tacky. I give this one star for the overweight character actor in the square, but that’s about it. Yaaawnnn.

I don’t even want to think about the political positions and favored candidates of an American this…this…I can’t even think of a good description. “It was nothing like the movie”????? And how many people like her are out there, rotting our culture and values from within?

Arrgh.

2. It’s about time. wouldn’t you agree? I’m amazed this took so long. Starting next year, BMC Toys in Scranton will begin adding  little green  Army women to the little green Army men that are such a standard kids’ toy. Since they debuted in 1950s, none of the iconic toy’s  manufacturers  have crossed the gender line. BMC is one of the  ew producers of plastic soldiers left in his country, and will soon be offering these:

Yay! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2019: The Greatest Morning Warm-Up Ever Blogged!

The movie “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was far from the “Greatest Movie Ever Made,” as the Duke’s casting as a Roman soldier demonstrated vividly.

OK, not really, but it better be good after yesterday’s potpourri never made it off the launch pad due to a series of unfortunate events. I’m using “The Greatest Legal Ethics Seminar Ever Taught!” as a title for an upcoming program I’m writing now, so the rhetoric is on my mind. My teaching partner complained that the title really puts the pressure on us to be outstanding. And that’s the point…

1. Harvard’s new President punts. Of course. The Harvard alumni magazine this month was notably light on criticism of the Ronald Sullivan fiasco, with only two critical letters on the topic, one of which made the suggestion that it might be a “conflict of interest” for someone who is defending a #MeToo villain to also serve as a residential faculty member (what was previously called a “House Master,” but that triggered some delicate students who felt it evoked slave-holders. No really. I’m serious. I don’t make this stuff up. Organizations capitulate to these complaints now, like Major League Baseball changing the name of the “Disabled List” because disabled rights activists complained). It is assuredly NOT a conflict of interest, though, by any definition but an erroneous one.

Deeper in the magazine, we learn that new President of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, was asked during a faculty meeting about his views on the episode. His response was essentially a Harvard version of Ralph Kramden’s immortal “huminhuminahumina” when “The Honyemooners” hero had no explanation for some fiasco of his own engineering. Bacow said he would respect “the locus of authority,” meaning College Dean Rakesh Khuratna, who fired Sullivan after joining in student protests over the law professor and lawyer doing exactly what lawyers are supposed to do.

So now we know that, not for the first time, Harvard is being led by a weenie. What should he have said?  How about “I am firing Dean Khuratna, and offering Prof. Sullivan his position back. Any Winthrop House students who feel  “unsafe” are welcome to transfer to Yale”?

Most news media gave inadequate coverage to this story, and none, in my view, sufficiently condemned the university’s actions or the un-American values they represent. At least the New York Times is keeping the episode before its readers by publishing an op-ed by Sullivan titled Why Harvard Was Wrong to Make Me Step Down.”

2. Insuring the life of a son in peril. Is this unethical somehow? It honestly never occurred to me. When I had to give a speech in Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most dangerous cites on Earth, my wife tried to take out a policy on my life with her as the beneficiary. I thought it was a good and prudent idea. But in Phillip Galane’s “Social Q’s” advice column, a son writes that he is still angry, decades later, that his late father did this , writing in part, Continue reading

And Harvard’s Ethics Death Spiral Continues: The Lampoon’s Ann Frank “Gag”

Talk about ethics alarms malfunctioning.

Fortunately, I had already disavowed my Harvard degree before this surfaced, so I am only mortified rather than trying to figure out how to flush myself down the toilet.

Above is an allegedly  humorous gag from Harvard’s student-run humor magazine, which once gave us Robert Benchley, Al Franken, and “Animal House.”  [Full disclosure: I was rejected by the Lampoon when I competed to join the staff as a student. ] The magazine has often championed sophomoric humor as well as bad taste, but there are limits to everything. I’d say using the image and memory of a brave and iconic Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp for a cheap, spectacularly unfunny photoshop gag is over the line, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t just about anyone with an atom of common sense and decency?

Fortunately, some Harvard students erupted in anger over the photo of Frank’s head grafted on the body of a pumped-up busty bikini girl and the “ Add this to the list of  reasons the Holocaust  sucked” punch line. So did the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League,  which condemned  the cartoon as a “vulgar, offensive & sexualized” meme that “denigrates [Ann Frank’s] memory & millions of Holocaust victims….Trivializing genocide plays into the hands of #antisemites & Holocaust deniers.” Continue reading

I Hereby Repudiate My Undergraduate Degree, As My Alma Mater Has Rendered It A Symbol Of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, And Liberal Fascism

No, I’m not kidding.

I probably should have done this much earlier, as when Harvard announced that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s. I would also have been justified in tearing up my alumni card when the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was their choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. An analogous policy would punish students for supporting Republican candidates, which I now realize may be Harvard’s next step.

When that off-campus club policy was announced (students are suing, and GOOD), I rationalized that this was a short-term problem resulting from a regrettable (and soon departing)  college President, feminist Drew Faust, who regarded enforcing progressive agenda items at metaphorical swordpoint as a greater priority than such minor matters as giving students the liberal education they were paying for. Now I see that it was the canary dying in the mineshaft. How I wish I had been giving a lot of money to Harvard (which needs money like Hawaii needs sunshine) so I could now stop.

This is the final straw:

Harvard’s Dean of the College, Rakesh Khurana, has announced that he is firing Winthrop House faculty dean, Ronald Sullivan, because he is defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution, and the Winthrop House students are upset about it, poor dears. (I wrote about this controversy here.)

Also upset is Dean Khurana, who, shockingly, joined a sit-in in protest of a Harvard lawyer doing exactly what ethical lawyers are supposed to do: give all citizens access to the best legal representation possible. To be clear about how serious this is, by firing Sullivan, Harvard is endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values, and even more revolting for an alleged “prestige institution of higher learning”, this is really, really stupid.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. I’ll publish this for the umpteenth time, from the Massachusetts Bars’ ethics rules… Continue reading

Jake Stein’s Tears

Legendary D.C. lawyer Jake Stein died last week at 94. He was that rarity in Washington and among lawyers, a universally respected attorney who had made few enemies and had few detractors. He was also long regarded as the sage of the profession in D.C., whose thoughtful and erudite essays that closed the bar associations’ monthly magazine, Washington Lawyer, were perhaps the most-read features of the publication.

I was reminded in his New York Times obituary that Stein represented Kenneth W. Parkinson, a former lawyer for President Nixon’s re-election committee, when he was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal. Parkinson was the only indicted Watergate figure who was acquitted, and Stein’s skillful defense was considered to be the reason.  His closing argument was made unusually dramatic by Stein weeping as he described Parkinson as a pawn of “confessed perjurers,” and pleaded for the jury to consider his client’s character and the wounds the unjust prosecution had inflicted on it. “Doesn’t a lifetime, where you built it up grain by grain, weigh against that?” Stein asked plaintively.

I wonder: were Stein’s tears real, and does it matter? Continue reading