Tag Archives: Ethics

Trouble in Paradise? The Paradise Papers and the Ethics of Lawful Tax Avoidance

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University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on the recent release of records known as the Paradise Papers, which reveal the identities of thousands of individuals and corporations using offshore jurisdictions as a tax avoidance strategy. Ramasastry argues that while such actions may in many cases be legal, they are also unethical. She points out that if we focus on the harm of tax avoidance to society, rather than how it is legally defined, then we can see that it contributes to growing inequality and increases tax burdens on resident taxpayers who cannot change their citizenship or move their money.

Bitcoin and the Legal Ethics of Lawyers

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Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda comments on a recent opinion by the Nebraska bar concluding that lawyers may receive digital currencies such as bitcoin for their services, but only subject to certain conditions. Rotunda provides a brief explanation of bitcoin and explains why the opinion makes no sense. Rotunda calls upon lawyers and state bars to consider the impact of new technology on lawyers, but not to impose special rules on novel tools that are simply a new way of engaging in a traditional endeavor.

Trump’s Mueller Scheming Will Fail

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John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on President Trump’s expressed displeasure with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and his apparent concern about the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Dean answers several questions raised by these and related stories.

An Ethical Analysis of the American Health Care Act

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Charles E. Binkley, MD, FACS, co-chair of the Ethics Committee at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and attorney David Kemp conduct an ethical analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, using the principles of impartiality and justice. Within this framework, Binkley and Kemp identify three values around which health care coverage should be prioritized, and they conclude that the AHCA fails to meet the ethical standards for government-supported health care.

An Index Fund is the Next Best Thing to a Blind Trust

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Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that for extremely wealthy government officials, in order to avoid conflicts of interests based on their financial holdings, could turn to a broad-based diversified portfolio, rather than having to utilize a blind trust. Dorf explains why this particular solution works for extremely wealthy individuals and why President-elect Donald Trump and much of his cabinet should take heed.

Trump’s Business Conflicts: Total Divestiture Is His Only Answer

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John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, explains why President-elect Donald Trump must divest himself from ownership in any property or entity that his actions or decisions as president might benefit. Dean draws upon his experience in the Nixon White House to argue that anything less than complete divestiture will not suffice; such is the price of public service.

Prosecutors Coercing Defendants to Contribute to the Prosecutor’s Favorite Charities

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on a practice by federal prosecutors of settling some cases by requiring defendants to pay money to specific charities—organizations that tend to support the present administration. Rotunda explains why this practice is ethically unsound and calls for an end to it.

The Hidden Atrocities Behind Medical Progress

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the moral question whether we have the right to benefit from discoveries made by outrageous rights violations. Colb considers the example of James Marion Sims—known as the father of modern gynecology—whose research on female slaves, without providing them the available anesthesia, led to his development of a technique to repair obstetric fistulas. Further, Colb calls into question the presumed rightfulness of experimenting on nonhuman animals.

Differing Perspectives on California Law Requiring Pregnancy Clinics to Post Abortion Information

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the perspectives of both sides of the controversy over a relatively new California law requiring licensed pregnancy centers to prominently post a notice about the availability of free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. Colb offers a compelling narrative to illustrate each perspective, ultimately concluding that while she personally agrees with one side neither is “right” in a moral sense.

The Moral Clarity of the Pro-Life Position in Frozen Embryo Disputes

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the recent trend of anti-abortion groups joining custody battles over frozen embryos on the side of the parent that seeks implantation. Colb argues that this position is consistent with their deeply held view that life begins at conception—much more so than their more usual stance in battles over abortion regulation.

Do Androids Dream of Animal Rights?

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Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explores the relationship between renewed discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) and the rights of non-human animals. Dorf argues that our current portrayals of AI reflect guilt over our disregard for the interests of the billions of sentient animals we exploit, torture, and kill in the here and now.

Frozen Embryo Disputes

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb uses a recent court dispute over a contract governing a divorced couple’s frozen embryos as the basis for considering some important issues that would arise in a frozen embryo dispute with no contract. Colb points out that resolving such a dispute would require careful balancing of the right of one party to procreate, on the one hand, and the right of the other party not to procreate, on the other.

Judicial Campaigns and the Appearance of Impropriety

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on the concept of the “appearance of impropriety” that affects the regulation of the conduct of judges. Rotunda looks specifically at judicial election campaigns and points out that the statistical data do not support a conclusion a tit for tat relationship between campaign contributions and judicial decisions.

Regulating Lawyer Advertising When It Is Not Misleading

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses a report drafted by the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers finding that state regulation of lawyer advertising involves far more rules and complexity than is necessary. Rotunda points out that in light of the purpose of such rules, the report recommends states that have a single rule that prohibits false and misleading communications about a lawyer or the lawyer’s services.

What Reactions to the Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Tell Us About Our Values

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb draws upon the outrage many people felt in response to a video allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts and tissue from abortions (video that was subsequently revealed to be edited so as to be intentionally misleading) in order to discuss a different area in which tissue and parts are bought and sold without evoking such broad outrage.

The Celgard Decision and Lawyer Disqualification

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with respect to the disqualification of a lawyer from representing a client due to a conflict of interest. Rotunda cautions that the decision, if read broadly, could signal major risks for patent firms, but he argues that the decision need not be read so broadly.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional la... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more