I am not an ethicist. Thus, unlike the New York Times column, I do not purport to know the answers. I will post my own as well as those submitted. From time to time I may say what I think but this Blog is primarily for the contributions of others.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Want My Bloody Mary or I Will Sue

I have copied this from the ethicist column of the Times (which, I suppose, raises another ethical issue) because I am wondering which law professor lives in Locust Valley, New York. This also makes me recall my Scrooge post over on Classbias.

A local restaurant advertises Sunday brunch for $10, including a complimentary Bloody Mary, mimosa, house wine or draft beer. I dined there with my wife and two teenage children. My wife and I each enjoyed our free cocktail. Then, during the meal, I told the waitress that I wanted the additional free Bloody Mary that came with one of my children’s brunches. She obliged. But when I received the check, there was a $7 charge for the second cocktail. She said that the owner had instructed her to charge me. I inquired with the owner, who told me that each brunch comes with a complimentary cocktail, but because the children were not of legal drinking age, their cocktail could not be served. Was the owner ethically obligated to serve me the cocktail that my teenager could not have? NAME WITHHELD, LOCUST VALLEY, N.Y.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stop Using the B Word.

Dear Law School Ethicist:

At some date prior to this date you  began a discussion of ethics dealing with Law Faculty behavior. In that post you used demeaning language with respect to a dog with no trigger warning. After that, a commentator noted your insensitivity but in the process referred to you as a Bozo, hereinafter the B-word. As you know the B word evokes imagines of clowns, a dying but honorable profession. For years these dedicated professions have brought joy to millions of people all over the world. I fondly remember seeing 234 of them spring from the back seat of a 1966 Volkswagon Beetle. (I will not go into the insensitivity of using the Beetle -- a critical element in our ecological future -- as the moniker for an automobile.) There is perhaps nothing to be done, in the wake of the Obama administration, to bring back the clowning profession although some will be satisfied with the far less thrilling mime. Nevertheless, please do not publish items that demean these hard working people, at least not without a trigger warning first.

Pokey the Clown

Friday, June 20, 2014

You Insentive Bozo

Dear Mr. Law School Ethicist:

Now you have gone to far. You are the unethical one. In your most recent column you printed a question about which type of person is less ethical. In the course of the question, which is somewhat intriguing, you included an image of a canine and then referred to a canine in a less that positive way. This was all done without any trigger warning at all. None. Where is your sense of sensitivity, of decency. What about the hurtfulness and trauma to dog owners and lovers to say nothing of that to their canine companions who may read and find this upsetting. Please be more careful.


Which is the Dark Side Mr. Smarty Pants?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

Which person is less ethical? I can only give you examples of what I mean.

1. In the midst of considering a new course that is proposed to be a 3 credit course, a faculty member proposes labeling it a 4 credit course so it would fill an entire  semester of teaching obligations. He does it without any sense that this would not be a logical thing to do because, after all, we would all work less. He has so thoroughly absorbed the view that we should always cut the best deal possible that he is not being evasive, sneaky, or, from his perspective, dishonest.

2. In the midst of a discussion about hiring a new faculty member in a fully staffed area, someone asks the person most familiar with enrollments in the area what the enrollments are. The answer: "Oh, I'd have to look into that." Possible the person did not know but the person not knowing is intimately familiar with enrollments and pushing the new hire very hard. If this example does not convey the message,  I could supply an infinite number of examples of "not techically a lie" or other examples of knowing evasiveness.

I guess the first person is like a big dog who sees an unguarded piece of meat in the butcher shop and gobbles it down. The second is someone who notices it unguarded and figures no one is looking so what's to lose.

Which type is more worrisome. Can the first one be unethical at all.

Thank you so much for sharing your views.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Even the Best Deal Can be Screwed up

Dear law school ethicist:

 I'm currently at a conference in a hot, unpleasant city that I generally avoid like the plague, especially in summer. It's a two-day affair, chock full of substantive discussion among people from law, other academic fields, and actual humans who have something called "jobs". I'm partying my own way, so my accommodations are pretty meagre: no pool, no spa, no stylish lounge with cocktails and soothing music. What am I doing wrong?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Resume or Letter?

Dear law school ethicist:

I hope your day is going well. I have a question not so much about ethics but about professional advancement. I have notice lately that when I get an email from someone, or even the rare letter, it is signed and then comes not just "Professor, U of Whatever" but what could only be called a resume. It will list directorships, blogs. book, recent articles and so on. In fact, it appears that the message itself is of secondary importance. I'd like to take the next step on this and leave out the message completely and just send my resume out to random people. Will this help move me up the ladder of this profession.



Harvard, Yale, Exeter
Ph.D Princeton.
Blogging: Self Promotion and the Law, Law and Goodness, Law and Getting a Deal. Taliban Fashion and the Law
My first book: Why I am the Law
My latest book: Why I am Still the Law
All books in between: Why Law: Parts 2-17
Head Drum Major: Dewitt High School
Picked as Best Looking and Most Likely to Get a Black Eye; Dewitt Middle School
Spelling Bee winner: final word "unctuous" (actually old family name, so was I cheating)
Latest Conferences: Highest Level with Highest Level People all of Who I know by their first names.
Law School Office Suite Crier
Best Teacher Award, Contracts, Second 2, 2002-2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Threat to Academic Freedom

Dear Law School Ethicist

As you know law professors never, ever pay for vacations. Since they are always working, their employers are happy to pay. In the past I have simply said I was going to wherever -- Paris. London, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio -- and reported that I was conferencing with people at the very highest level. When I get there I go to a lawyer's office and hang out for a couple of hours. This time, while in Geneva, I had trouble gaining access to an actual office but I know, as a matter of ethics, I needed proof of my conferencing. I found the addresses of a couple of local lawyers and located their trash. In the trash I found some electric bills. I returned home and submitted by claim for reimbursement and included the electric bills. (Man, those attorneys sure hog the electricity.) The official in charge here at my school says I need proof of an actually meeting. I am insulted that she has called my honestly into question and I believe not to reimbursement me is a threat to my academic freedom and to that of every other law professor. What to do think?


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gray Suede Shoes

Dear Law School Ethicist:

I am a law teacher. In my first year class I got into a discussion with a pretty good student. At some point he noted my shoes (Ecco Grey Suede with semi capped toe) and said he liked them. Later on in the conversation he suggested a  bet. If he booked my class, I would buy him a pair of shoes like the ones he was admiring. If he did not book it, he had to prepare an elegant dinner for me and my family. When I graded his exam it looked like he might book the course until I made a small adjustment in his grade. I lowered it 2 points because he should not gamble. I did not have to buy the shoes. Have I done the right thing? It was for his own good.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Grading For Cookies

Dear Ethicist:

At my school all students are assigned exam number and we may not know the identity of the students  until grades are handed in. These are, though, preliminary grades and we know which students are which before final grades are submitted. One of the worst grades in my class was earned by a student who is the daughter of a friend of mine and she brings me cookies and milk every day. I would like to adjust her grade upward. I will not have to lower anyone else's grade. Is it unethical for me to raise her grade as a token of gratitude? Suppose it's just because she had had a tough life and I want to give her a chance to improve herself?

Thanks, Grading Master

Friday, May 23, 2014

Big Red Slobbering Dog

Dear Law School Ethicist,
The associate dean for student affairs at my school has started a program to lessen stress for students. It meets once a week at 6:00 p.m. We learn how to meditate, how to breathe, and are given exercises that alleviate stress. I have a lot of anxiety and would rather use this time to go home, watch sports or ESPN, and have a brewski. It's my stress reduction program, and it works great. 

But, this dean is also my teacher for civil pro, and, even though her pet program is voluntary, she takes names of those who attend her "stress class". Everyone in her civil pro section shows up, except me. Today she asked me how I'm doing. Now I'm really freaked.  

She is very proud of her stress initiative and stresses (oops, sorry) that her door is always open and her therapy trained Golden Retriever, Buffy, ready to be cuddled. Am I going to get screwed because I didn't sign up for de-stressing and I'm scared of dogs? 
"Go Blue!" Benny

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Time is On My Side

Dear Law School Ethicist;

Ok, here is the story. In my law school class about a third of the class is given extra time on exams. Some have trouble with eye sight, some have language issues, and others have ADHD although I am not sure if that is the way it is spelled or how it is pronounced. Some take ADHD meds but do not get extra time. All of these people have an advantage on the exam. I know a buddy of mine who got extra time wrote 1000 more words on an exam than I did. I wanted extra time too and  this year I developed a heavy Italian accent. It worked great and it got  me extra time. Now some jerk claims I violated the Honor Code. Yes, I did fake the accent but I did not fake my desire for extra time and throughout the exam in my head I did think in an Italian accent. I say if I cheated so did all the students who do not have ADHD but take the medicine anyway. What do you think?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Big Cheese

Dear Law School Ethicist;

At my law school when someone writes an email to the faculty that rubs me the wrong way I like to also send kind of a comical follow up to the faculty. I am very funny. I know that because everyone laughs when I make a quip. So, I might write something like. "So now you're the big cheese." or "Is my email working. I got a weird email." or "Et tu brutus." I know it breaks everyone up but lately someone told me it is immature, not funny, and makes me look like a bully since it appears I am ridiculing the writer of the original email. What do you think?

Thanks, Your Funniest Nightmare.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why's Everyone So Mad at Me?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

I am a professor at a law school. Yesterday we were interviewing a candidate and I asked him who he sleeps with. I know we cannot discriminate based on martial status but there are many professors who hold positions because of the person they sleep with. I don't get it, if it is plus -- if you are sleeping with the "right" person, that is -- aren't I obligated to ask so I will know how to rank the candidate. Well everyone got really really mad and said I was unethical. What's up with this? Also, when we place ads for open positions shouldn't we include a blank on the application so the candidate can identify his or her sleeping partner. Am I wrong? Please help.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It Could have Happened


Dear Law School Ethicist:

A few days ago, I reported to my teacher that he was so mean in class that a foreign student fled the class in tears.  He seemed to feel bad about it. Without my permission, he approached the student and asked her what was the matter. She reported that he was not upset and that she had allergies. Now the teacher has let me know in subtle ways that I've caused a stir when it was unnecessary. I explained to him that even though it did not happen, it COULD have happened. I mean you never really know. He says there is a big difference. I say he is insensitive and narrow minded. Who is right? Thanks.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Toilet Paper on My Shoe

Dear Law School Ethicist:

There is a guy at my law school I don't speak to because, among other things, he makes fun of Harvard people and I am a Harvard man and proud of it. When we cross paths, he says "hello" or some inane thing like "why not speak to me." I just stare into space and completely ignore him.  The other day as we crossed paths he said, "There is toilet paper stuck to your shoe." I again ignored him and went to class where I discovered there was toilet paper stuck to my shoe -- about 7 feet of it. It would have been embarrassing but being from Harvard I know not to blush.  Here's the problem, if something like this happens again -- he tells me there is bird poop on my shoulder or that my zipper is down -- and I check have I, by acknowledging him, broken my resolve to ignore him. Can I ignore him and act on what he says at the same time?

Thanks, Chadworth Hunnington III

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ethical Student Punished?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

I have a 3.39 GPA. If I had a 3.40 I would qualify for honors. Today I asked my first year contracts teacher to raise my grade from a  B to a B+ in his class. He asked why and I told the truth -- I need the extra points for honors. He said no. I feel like I am being punished for telling the truth. Is this fair?  I thought law school was all about ethics and that students should be awarded for telling the truth. What's with this guy?


Monday, April 7, 2014

Did I Earn an A?

Dear Law School Ethicist;

As a first year student I fell head over heels in love with Civil Procedure and, by the way, my professor. We had intimate relations. He was not married, nor am I. After a couple of months we realized we should not be involved.

My final grade was A. That would be fine because I studied hard and, after all, got some private tutoring. The problem is that I left half the test blank. I suspect the A was awarded because of some sense of gratitude or kindness.

If I do not go to the Dean and tell him the whole story and petition for my grade to be reduced to a B or C, have I violated the honor code? Thanks in advance for your answer.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Underwear Confessions

Dear Law School Ethicist:

This will seem odd and I do not mean to be provocative but I have to ask this. On my way to teach in the morning I often stop at the gym to work out. Last Tuesday, after working out and showering I realized I had forgotten to pack my underwear. It was to late to go back home and there are no clothing stores. I am pretty modest and did not like the idea but I had to teach with no underwear on.

Here is my question. The whole time teaching I was uncomfortable because it just did not feel right. Suppose the students suspected I was not wearing underwear? They might suspect me of being some kind of wierdo. Now when  I think about it I wonder if it would  have been better if I had just announced at the beginning of class "Today I am teaching without underwear. We are all adults so I intend to teach in my normal fashion."
What do you think?

Now keeping extra underwear at my office.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

To Post or Not to Post

OK, Mr. Law School Smarty Pants:

Here is a real question. At my school, and I think most others, we have to advertise when we fill a faculty position. So we do. Sometimes, however, we know who we are going to hire but we announce the opening anyway. This produces applications from who never had a chance. This worries me but if we do not list the openings we may be breaking the law and we sure don't want to do that. Is it ethical for us to keep listing these jobs?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hot Ham and Cheese Cheating??

Dear Law School Ethicist:

This has been bothering me for some time. I was having a hard time in Financial Papers class and I spoke to my teacher.She said that if I would bring her a hot ham and cheese sandwich from Subway each day for lunch I would get and A in the classl She paid for the sandwich so it seemed fine to me and I really wanted an A. A hot ham and cheese (6 inch) cost  $5.34 including tax.  A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I could get almost exactly the same sandwich for $4.50 and a different sub shop.  My teacher cannot tell the difference and I keep the 84 cents extra.  Am I cheating by not  telling her that I am only paying $4.50 for the sandwich?

Monday, March 31, 2014

What's a Student to Do?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

I am not sure this is an ethical issue exactly but it has something to do with fairness. At my my school we are divided into 4 first year sections. In one course we all take exactly the same exam.  I  recieved a raw score of 38 on the exam and received a B+ for a grade. My friend in another section also scored a 38 and received an A. This seems wrong to me. I seems like my grade was determined by the section I was assigned to and not my actual performance on the exam.  Shouldn't the teachers somehow make sure this does not happen?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Double Dip?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

I know these letters involve faculty but maybe you can respond to this. I am finishing my second year of law school and I am on law review. I just finished my note and it will not be published. Now I am registering for third year courses. I see  one that dovetails nicely with my law review note. Since I have done most of the research already, I think I can sign up for the seminar and write a paper based on this research and perhaps even use some of the writing.  Two questions. Is it ethical for me to do this? You will probably say I should ask the Professor. But I am wondering, if I ask and he says yes does that mean it becomes ethical? I still would not be doing as much work as the other students Thanks.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Recycled Exams

Dear Mr. Law School Ethicist:

One that that really pisses me off is the reuse of exam questions. It means that I need to learn the material which is why I am in school but it also means searching around for old exams that other students seem to have. If you have the old questions and you know the teacher is a recycler, you are likely to perform better than someone who has simply studied. It seems like professors have an ethical obligation to make sure their laziness does not mean results turn on how hard students scrounge around for old exams. Can't the deans do something about this?

Fed Up UF Law Student

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Make Room for Someone New?

Dear Law School Ethicist:

 Law School hires X for a tenure track position because of expertise in a given area of the law. X has spent 5 years at Law School where she has been a standout as a teacher and has amassed a scholarly record considerably in excess of what is expected of a young professor. Some faculty and the new dean, who has a novel vision for Law School,  have concluded that Law School actually has sufficient faculty strength in X's area of expertise without the presence of X on the faculty. This group would much prefer to hire a new professor in a "hot" area of the law but lack a free slot that would enable them to do so. It is suggested that they reject X for tenure, thereby freeing the slot that they could use to hire the new entrant in the "hot" area of the law. X has made considerable sacrifice in moving to Law School from 500 miles away and giving up a tenured position at another lesser school. Is it ethical for you to vote to deny X tenure?

Hiring Spouses?

Dear Law School Ethicist; 

 My spouse and I are professional people with good jobs. Recently, an out of town firm has made an offer to my spouse who has told the firm no unless the same firm gives me a job comparable to the one I have. They have agreed even though it means by-passing their usual hiring process designed to find the best qualified candidates and to encourage equal opportunity. Is it ethical for me to accept their offer even though it means legitimizing a process that is unfair to others in that it favors me only because of my choice of spouse?