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

I Expect Non-Lawyers And Journalists To Misunderstand This Basic Legal Ethics Principle….But HARVARD LAW SCHOOL?

Kaboom.

This is a repeat issue, so I could make this short and link to the previous Ethics Alarms post on this annoying subject, or  here, when I defended Hillary Clinton when she was being called a hypocrite for once defending  a child rapist, or maybe the post titled,  No, There Is Nothing Unethical Or Hypocritical About A Feminist Lawyer Defending Roger Ailes.or this post, when liberal icon and former Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe was representing a coal company. I have vowed, however, that if I accomplish nothing else with this blog, I will do my best to put a stake through the ignorant and destructive idea that lawyers only represent clients they agree with, admire, or personally support. Here its is again, the ABA rule that is quoted somewhere in every jurisdiction’s attorney conduct regulations. Let’s do it really big this time:

ABA Model Rule 1.2(b): “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.”

Got that? Memorize it Print it out and carry it in your wallet, and hand it to your ignorant loud-mouth family member who complains about those scum-bag lawyers who represent bad people. Post it on social media and  in online comment sections where people are bloviating about the same. idiotic misconception.

What we can do about Harvard, however, I just don’t know. You know what they say, “Get woke, lose all respect and credibility as a trustworthy advocate for civil rights and the Rule of Law.” Okay, I’m going to have to work on that… Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Frivolous Lawsuit!

Sounds noble in theory, but it doesn’t always work when the one saying “no” is a judge.

Lawyers and the public mean different things when they call a lawsuit “frivolous.” The public and the news media mean that the suit is silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed. Lawyers, however, know that suits that seem  silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed sometimes win. Sometimes, they even change the law for the better. ABA Rule 3.1 explains,

Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law….

Comment:The filing of an action or defense or similar action taken for a client is not frivolous merely because the facts have not first been fully substantiated or because the lawyer expects to develop vital evidence only by discovery. What is required of lawyers, however, is that they inform themselves about the facts of their clients’ cases and the applicable law and determine that they can make good faith arguments in support of their clients’ positions. Such action is not frivolous even though the lawyer believes that the client’s position ultimately will not prevail. The action is frivolous, however, if the lawyer is unable either to make a good faith argument on the merits of the action taken or to support the action taken by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

The guy currently  suing me for defamation, for example, hasn’t quite crossed the “frivolous” line, though he is arguing that what is clearly opinion is an assertion of fact, contrary to all existing jurisprudence. His appeal, however, while batty, does make an argument that I assume in in good faith, that a Supreme Court case supports his definition of libel. It doesn’t, but he has the right to make an argument in the hope that some judge or appellate panel will agree. Of course, he is also not a lawyer, so he can’t be held responsible for violating legal ethics.

This guy can be, however: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/17/18: Travel Hell Edition

Good Morning from Virginia Beach, VA…

…where I am giving a legal ethics seminar to a law firm this morning!

1. Count the ethics issues in Travel Hell…This story is true, and I’m not changing any names, because nobody is innocent.

Last night I had to drive to Virginia Beach after another seminar in D.C., and after yet another road trip on family business. It turned out to be a three and a half hour drive in a pouring rain. Arriving at 2:20 am at the Virginia Beach Westin, where I was supposed to have a room, I was immediately informed by the graveyard shift desk clerk that we could not stay there…because the previous occupants of the room reserved for us (my wife and business partner also made the trip) had “left fecal matter” all over the room, creating a HAZMAT situation. Not to worry, though! The beachfront Hilton would put us up, at the Westin’s expense!

Since I wasn’t paying for the room, this was small consolation.

Of course, we had unloaded the car, and the Hilton was 20 minutes away, and the desk clerk had neither an address nor a phone number, which I pointed out to her was essential. (The point of staying at the Westin was that it was convenient to the location of the law firm.) So we loaded up the car and set out to the new destination, arriving just before 3 am. There, the Hilton desk clerk told us that the hotel had just begun an audit, and we could not be put in a room for at least 20 minutes. I was literally afraid to tell my wife this, as she was in the car alternately fuming and wincing in pain because the endless trip had revived her sciatica.

I was not nice to the Hilton desk clerk, who swore that she told the Westin about the problem, and that they should have told us. I said that I didn’t care whose fault it was, they were now responsible for two weary travelers, and that it was her responsibility to fix the problem. She found a very nice man who got a big tip from me for taking charge of our vehicle and taking our stuff up to our room when the “audit” was over.

Once in the room, we discovered that two of the lamps didn’t work, the desk lamp was missing, and the clock was blinking. I told the clerk to send someone up and have the room in the shape I expect hotel rooms to be in before I walk in the door—including having the clock set and functioning.

On the plus side, no fecal matter was in evidence….

2. Why people hate lawyers…Branson Duck Vehicles and Ripley Entertainment are facing multiple lawsuits in the horrific duck boat accident that killed 17 people in Missouri , including nine members of a single family. In court papers filed this week, the companies’ lawyer cited an 1851 maritime law to limit or eliminate liability for the July tragedy.

In a filing in federal court in Missouri, the defendants denied negligence in the sinking of the boat, and argues that if a court does find negligence, they have no liability because, under that law, “the Vessel was a total loss and has no current value. No freight was pending on the Vessel.”

The reaction was predictable. Human beings have no value? This was a Hail Mary defense tactic to be sure, but if that’s the clients’ best option, it is the lawyers’ duty to argue it, IF they first inform their clients that it is a likely public relations disaster that as a cure could be worse than the disease, and seems unlikely to do anything but inflame a jury.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/19/2018: The All-Denial Edition

Good Morning!

On this day in ethics, 1918: Washington catcher Eddie Ainsmith claimed that he should be deferred from the draft because he was a major league baseball player. Uh, nice try, Eddie, but no,  Secretary of War Newton D Baker ruled, as he tried to suppress uncontrollable eye-rolling..

1. “California, here I come!…here I come!…here I come!…” Oh. Never mind. The California Supreme Court took a measure off the ballot that would have allowed Californians to vote on whether the state should be divided into three smaller states, like this:

In its opinion, the Court argued that the changes demanded by the ballot measure exceeded California voters’ broad authority to enact laws by initiative, established in 1911. If enacted, the measure would have in effect abolished the state Constitution and all existing laws, which would have to be replaced by lawmakers  in the three new states. The measure would also alter the laws that define California’s boundaries, amending the state Constitution. That cannot be done by initiative, but instead requires approval by two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature to be placed on the ballot.

I know that the splitting up of California was a transparent effort to hijack the Senate by adding four more guaranteed Democrats. It was also doomed, since this plot would need to pass Congress and not be vetoed by the President. Still, wouldn’t something as obvious as violating the state Constitution arise before the wacko measure was placed on the ballot? How incompetent can you get? How much more incompetent can California get?

2. THIS will end well… Facebook claims that it will be removing false information from its pages when it threatens to cause violence, before it will cause violence. Sure, we all trust Facebook as an objective, trustworthy arbiter of speech, don’t we? Don’t we? Especially since they use the ever-reliable Snopes to check. During an interview with ReCode’s Kara Swisher, Mark Zuckerberg cited Holocaust denials as the kind of misinformation Facebook would allow to remain on the platform.  “At the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” Zuckerberg told Swisher. “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”

He doesn’t? I’m not sure Holocaust denial is automatically eligible for Hanlon’s Razor; on the other hand, there are good faith idiots. Speaking of idiots, Zuckerman was surprised when his ignorant shrug sparked angry attacks like that of Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who said, “Holocaust denial is a willful, deliberate and longstanding deception tactic by anti-Semites that is incontrovertibly hateful, hurtful, and threatening to Jews.Facebook has a moral and ethical obligation not to allow its dissemination.”  Continue reading