Thursday, February 11, 2016

SOMETIMES THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT IS CORRECT: AND I AM NOT

I was wrong.

I said I believed that a certain candidate in the Republican Party had the character and integrity to admit her mistake in running a scurilous, disreputable and, in at least three respects, inaccurate television ad

In my own way, although I have no involvement in Republican politics, I vouched for her decency and excused the placement of this ad by assuming her better judgment had been overwhelmed by campaign staff and consultants. I argued that she would likely promptly issue the apology which was due for this conduct.

In writing what I wrote earlier I was well aware that very balanced and decent brothers of the bar had written that the placement of the ad, itself, was, for want of a better term, "disqualifying."

Because every human makes mistakes and because I believe firmly in redemption I held out not only the hope but the expectation that this person I know to be good and decent, would make the situation right. Several of my friends, quite publicly, told me, each in their own way, that I was being either naïve or stupid.

To explain myself,  I am more than just an old guy who practices law just for a living. I am a committed member of the brotherhood and sisterhood that makes up the national bar, the folks who function in this country every day as, if you will, "ministers of Justice".  This is as much of me as my other roles, husband, father, grandfather, veteran, any  of them.

As I noted, I'm also an old human. In the modern age we have, as applied to lawyers, "disciplinary rules." When I began practicing our guide star was not disciplinary rules, which only describe minimally acceptable conduct, our guide star was document known as the "Canons of Ethics". Two of the canons which of always stuck with me were open parents and I will paraphrase):

"Look kindly upon the needs and travails of brother lawyers, their widows and families."

"Avoid any conduct or expression which would negatively impact the public's perception of the administration of justice."

Again, because I am old, I remember when the members of the local bar quietly and privately dug deep into pockets for a brother facing an emergency situation. I also remember a number of us taking turns stopping by the office of a lawyer who was quietly going blind to read his mail to him in order that he did not miss any obligations. I remember more than once setting up a schedule for evening visit with a homebound colleague fighting a dread disease so that he had some company every day.

Yes, everybody loves to bash lawyers and talk about how they are inquisitive, money loving, self – centered sharks.

But that is not the bar I know. The general bar in Western Illinois is charitable, kind, involved, concerned and conscious that the whole of us is far greater than the sum of its parts.  Folks, the geist of our group is extend kindness and courtesy to one another, wherever possible.

It is certainly true that the younger lawyers, those with 20 or fewer years of service, have not witnessed as much of that collegiality as us old guys. Still, we can't read our monthly magazines and weekly updates without being reminded that we are called to increased civility and humanity.Understandably, your reality may be different from mine. When you witness us fighting like cats and dogs in court or when a lawyer tells you that you have no case because your boss spoke disrespectfully to you, that may inform your reality that we are a cold, cruel heartless bunch. For now, you'll have to take it on faith that the history of the bar in Western Illinois is one of enormous civility and humane treatment of our brothers and sisters.

But, you say, "what does that have to do with a political ad."

In my world and in my view the rule of civility and humane treatment proscribes any and all exploitation of human frailty. The law, just for an example, does not permit a job seeker to be examined about prior bankruptcies. Some subject matters are just so personal as to be unavailable as an employment credential. Certainly, politics involves drawing distinctions. This is an area where I am not naïve I have been the author of and the victim of ample "contrast" ads. But the "contrast" ad must be fundamentally true and must bear some rational relationship to the position sought by the parties. If it does not pass both of these litmus tests, then it is just a gratuitous, personal attack and, in my view, substandard and regrettable conduct.

Now, I have said rather boldly that folks make mistakes and that retraction and apology could wash this one out. I even said that I believe strongly in the character of the offending advertiser to do exactly that. Having run for office in the past, I understand the pressures on a given candidate and I can hypothesize how this would happen against the candidates better judgment.   Corrected early, it would have been, in my view, a very exusable error.  Until now, I considered myself a reasonable judge of character.

For an apology and a withdrawal to be effective, there was a very short window of time. When a piece of the type we are discussing is being broadcast on prearranged electronic rota, there comes a time when the information has metastasized to the point where the apology and withdrawal are without effect. In my judgment we have reached that time.

I have seen the letters and social media comments to the effect that the initial decision to run this ad was a "disqualifying event." I have resisted that view. I have held up for the integrity of the person who made the original mistake. I had dreamed on the notion of Abraham Lincoln that "better angels" would prevail.

I like to think I am not stupid. I am often intentionally naïve and hopeful. In this case, my belief in "better angels" has become unsustainable.

My colleagues who took the "disqualifying event" position immediately appear to have been correct. I am not sorry that I am slow to this position. When it comes to my brother and sister lawyers I will continue to look for reasons to view them as high integrity individuals but, in the final analyisis, I got this one wrong. There are a minimum of three lies in the offending piece… And those are just the ones about which I have personal knowledge. There may be more. There's a price to be paid for lying generally and, particularly, for lying about a brother.

As I made clear on social media, I am not involved in either campaign and I do not vote in that primary. Thus, my only interest here is in the behavior of lawyers, one to another, particularly here in Western Illinois.

Having said that, I do know a little bit about what it takes operate the State's Attorney's office from the position of State's Attorney. The holder of that office, to be effective, must be trusted by police, grand juries, the judiciary, other states attorneys, the defense bar and the Atty. Gen.'s office, the county board and the other county officeholders, not to mention the general public who are often asked to testify or provide information in  investigations when I say "trusted" I mean not just in terms of truthfulness but in terms of judgment, soundness of character, if you will. The performance of the office fails without that aspect.

It is with great regret and disappointment that I say a person who would run the subject ad and not quickly recant is unlikely to capture the trust I referenced in the preceding paragraph. It should be obvious I am trying very hard to avoid using the severe words that some other commentators on this issue have chosen.   Still, I can no longer argue with those who have stated this is, indeed, a disqualifying event.

12 Comments:

At 8:44 AM, February 12, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do not be too hard on yourself for giving another a kind consideration and a wide berth. sadly it was miss placed. and the only decent response from the offender, a total withdrawal still remains forthcoming. cleansing oneself from the advisor's involved is now too little and too late. the campaign now must pack up and shut down. the 'fat lady' has sung!

 
At 9:34 PM, February 14, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waaaah. They both need to get real jobs and contribute to society.

 
At 3:07 PM, February 16, 2016, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Really? That's your reality? That a career criminal prosecutor is not a "real job" and makes no contribution to society?

Thank you for stopping by but I couldn't disagree more. Police and prosecutors are essential to the orderly operation of a society. There will always be deviants and sociopaths from whom the general and mostly law-abiding population needs protection.

 
At 5:43 AM, February 24, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's crap, it's all crap. Farha had been slamming her in a disgusting manner like a 12 year old little boy to every one who will listen,in every bar and restaurant he frequents. The "Good ol boys" club has got to stop. Jennifer and Gary are both qualified. She may have taken out an ad but he had secretly "campaigning" on Adam County time for hours a day on YOUR dime for over a year in the basement of the courthouse. She knocks on doors and put miles on her shoes. And gets results. The only people upset about the Ad are Farha supporters. I support the facts. I know them both personally. And have said.. if you are gonna run for office, don't have any skeletons in your closet! Barnard signed off on her ad and fact checked it. Sad that he has Nuessen ruining his campaign in my opinion and someone that is truly looking out for Gary. He should have picked better. Doing fake profiles and attack members isn't cool. It's vicious, yes. But I can't tell you.... It started long before that ad.

 
At 8:23 AM, March 01, 2016, Blogger UMRBlog said...

I have no problem running your comment because I'm not in the tank for either of these folks. Neither has a penny of my money. I will not vote in that primary so I shall support neither.

My point is that the Cifaldi ad is indecent, specifically with respect to Farha having exercised a Federally guaranteed right. I'm behind the curve on the bar talk because I don't hang out in bars. Thus, you seem to have superior knowledge to me on that.

"Good Old Boys Club has got to stop." I really don't know what you are saying. Is this anti-male? Is this an argument against anyone who was actually born in Quincy? What the Hell is your point?

If you have info about any candidate abusing the public's time, post the video. For God's Sake, don't justify Cifaldi's indecent ad by saying Farha is some kind of generic bad boy. If you're going to make an argument in favor of immoral behavior, at least make a cogent one!

Your statement about who is disappointed in this ad is just wrong. I am not in the Farha campaign. I was a strong admirer of Cifaldi but I am, above most other things, a lawyer and that is not how lawyers treat one another. Many folks with no preference in this election have agreed with me.

I'm happy for you that you have this inside baseball about Barnard approving the ad. I do not participate in idolatry. I don't give a rip who told her this was all right. She has the decisional authority and she not only decided to run it, she doubled down on it using exactly your faulty reasoning: "You got skeletons, don't run."

If you want to engage in moral relativism, I leave you to your values system.

Thank you for coming by. Your comment is very instructive.

 
At 10:16 AM, March 01, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, I am not "anti-male", I am a male. I also do not frequent bars as you think I do. I do know that Mr. Farha is very vocal at bars/restaurants, which is what I said. He doesnt care who can hear him either.
I was born and raised in Quincy. Do you truly believe there is not a "Good ol boys club?" Even law enforcement says there is definitely one. Just not everyone chooses to be a part of it. You want people to post videos of him sitting in courthouse campaigning on your dollar just because you can't take someone's word? The witch hunt started long ago. I was actually on the fence 6 months ago on WHO I was going to vote for, and after watching and listening and truly studying- I have decided she has my vote. I went to the luncheon Sunday and he continuously lies. He has said even, to myself the nastiest things about her that have me see who he is as a person. I believe he is only running in this race, because she threw her hat in the ring first. Please don't talk about moral vs immoral. I haven't heard him say one decent thing about her. His numbers seem to be off too. I talked to our current SA and know the facts now. For Gary wanting positive, he hasn't kept it positive. He has only kept himself in a sunny light. He slams Jennifer constantly to everyone. Sad, because I believe Jennifer was pushed in a corner to a point. I am very impressed that the ad has people all stirred up. The facts are there. The story has changed about his suspension, of course- from 4 years ago as we knew it would. Barnard wouldn't have suspended him for 30 days without pay for just "showing up at police station upset". Come on.

 
At 1:31 PM, March 01, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You never look good trying to make someone else look bad.

 
At 8:07 PM, March 01, 2016, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1016,

You are the one who said "Good Old Boys" I can't tell if your beef is "old" or "boys". If you use the language imprecisely, don't quibble with those who insist on clarity. You are the one who made the "bars" comment. Where would hear bar talk except in a...well....bar? I can't take someone's anonymous utterance. The end of your narrative is just more moral relativism--her indecent behavior is excused because his was was somehow found wanting. And then you add a little idolatry: "Barnard couldn't possibly have been wrong." Jon's a fine lawyer and valued colleague but the next time he admits he doesn't have all the facts will be the first. Finally, understand, my only comment was about the basic indecency of mentioning exercising a federally guaranteed right when it is utterly unrelated to the skill set for the office. I am not plugging any candidate. I've been abundantly clear that Neitehr has a penny of my money and neither has my vote. You, on the other hand have been consistent in advocating moral relativism. If that is what it takes for you to justify whatever it is you are vaguely contending, knock yourself out. I happen to think principles of decency and civility are a bit more static than you do.

 
At 4:53 AM, March 02, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually said Gary frequents the bars/restaurants I didn't say I did. I have family that work at them and know what is said also. On to Barnard, I was told if I had questions to ask, so I did. I never said he couldn't be wrong, but on the other hand.. maybe he isnt. Maybe just maybe, Garys team has it wrong. It's now one side believing the other side. It's an opinion and I believe this is how a lot of this works. The suspension story had now changed, he NOW didn't "interfere". I talked to him months after that happened and his words back then we're I interfered and I messed up. NOW it's he didn't interfere? He used those words with me back then. I have spoke to Gary and have personally heard the bashing he has done, that is what this has been about. I believe that are both quite qualified. But, this all started by you saying you feel she should pull her ads and apologize from something that's true versus the things he has been saying that isn't true? I learned a lot talking to Barnard and going to these forums and I have learned that Gary just has wrong. His facts are way off. Like I have said, I technically have known him longer. And like him. I just don't think he is the person for the job. He is doing no worse than she is as far as the attacks, he just does it at Sprouts/Kellys and wherever and to whomever else will listen. He does it, I promise you. It's no different. So yes I can get defensive. I get defensive when people I like are attacked. So sorry if came across the way I did. But I don't feel Jennifer needs to apologize for an ad that's true, there is a @1M budget they have to work with at the SA office. Fiscal issues are important.

 
At 10:34 AM, March 02, 2016, Blogger UMRBlog said...

2007,

You obviously didn't read this post too carefully. "True" was never my issue. INDECENT is my issue. The representations that have to do with Mr. Farha taking relief as allowed by federal law should simply never have been made. If she wanted to bleat about the suspension and the alleged "demotion, I suppose that's fair game. Petty, but fair game.

Your theory that truth is a defense to indecent conduct is interesting but really just another form of moral relativism. Your notion that Farha deserves it because he spoke ill of Cifaldi IS moral relativism.

Now, I will concede something after reading about last night. This campaign has not cast credit upon either one of them. Perhaps we can agree that is regrettable.

Thank you for coming by.

 
At 12:36 PM, March 02, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say I agree with how it's all been handled, but I can understand her point on how maybe she felt it hand to come out. Maybe she doesn't feel that way either, that's how I take it. I can say this after sitting on neutral sides last night, the way his people behaved was embarrassing. She did remain calm. He lost his cool I thought. Upset or not, this was a debate.. not a playground. His followers didn't act mature at all and I was not impressed. Her folks sat there quiet and respected both speakers, they didn't speak while Gary was talking nor heckled him. I watch for that. I sat on the far side and watched. Gary told the crowd at one time to be quiet, but it was his people being loud. They hollered out couple times while she was speaking, just disrespectful.

 
At 8:07 PM, March 02, 2016, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1236,

As noted, I have no dog in that fight. I heard from the bride's side and the grooms side and my synthesis is that the it was pretty ugly. "Vote for me because my opponent is morally/ethically/skillset substandard." is great technique for inspiring no confidence in Government.

Doesn't sound to me like either combatant is exactly a profile in courage here or a beacon of civility.

Thank you for coming by. I appreciate your perspective.

 

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