Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor and the Supreme Court Paradigm

Seating Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court could well be required for a feat not anticipated in our lifetimes, although certainly provided by the framers of our constitution, — seating non-lawyers on that court.

Sotomayor may weigh her life experiences, as she has stated, to reach judicial opinions some interpret at conflict with the Constitution and case law to date. This would not be the first time, nor would it always lead to favorable outcomes for Sotomayor’s opinions. Dissenting or not, she would be subject to the razor-sharp pressure from her peers.

The longstanding monopoly of an entire branch of the federal government by lawyers, the majority of the U.S. Senate, including its Judiciary Committee, and over 30% of the U.S. House of Representatives by members of a single profession is outrageous on its face. Although such concentrations of authority breed conflicts of interest, most voters cannot see the results.

A scandal with tentacles and ensuing investigation will someday confirm the unconscionable conflicts of interest enabled by lawyers, particularly with unelected enablers like well-heeled lobbyists or worse, lawyer-filled not-for-profits like the A.C.L.U. , A.C.O.R.N.

Like it or not, seating Sotomayor may finally provide that reliance on case precedent and the written letter of the law (i.e. the claimed necessity for jurists' formal legal education) is not so necessary. Voila! We want to see some commoners on our Supreme Court.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Environment of Corruption, Yet?

Inspector General David Kotz uncovered the possible insider trading. Kotz declined CBS's formal request for an interview, citing the ongoing investigation. As related in SEC Attorneys Probed For Insider Trading, Kotz later told CBS News:

"The report talks about our concerns that there is no true compliance system at the SEC."

The SEC has had no compliance system in place to monitor the trades of their employees.

Both attorneys - who deny any wrongdoing - still work at the SEC and make six-figure salaries. The investigation was triggered after the high volume of trades by the female attorney set off alarms inside the agency. ...

In addition, the (pdf) report says that the female attorney “spent much of her work day e-mailing and searching the Internet about stocks.” It quotes her telling investigators: "It's my main hobby. It's my passion.” And: “It’s my way of keeping intellectually above what other people are doing.”

If corruption is present at an enforcement and regulatory agency populated largely by members of the legal profession, what must conflicts of interest be like in a federal goverenment populated largely by members of the same profession?

Let's not forget, the ethical tone of a nation is set by its role models, the leaders.

To corporate watchdogs, audit CPAs and their lawyers, the SEC has set the ethical tone since 1934. Look at today's economy; has the SEC's ethical tone been any more effective than Fannie Mae's?

Wasn't it Arthur Andersen's in-house counsel who advised the ENRON auditors to shred their workpapers? Yes, indeed.

Now, another lawyer:

Ex-Ernst & Young Partner Convicted of Insider Trading

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- James Gansman, who was a partner at Ernst & Young LLP, was convicted of six federal insider-trading charges.

A federal jury in Manhattan today also acquitted Gansman of three insider-trading counts and conspiracy. He faces more than 20 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 1. He is free on bail. His accomplice, Donna Murdoch, a managing director at a Philadelphia-based broker-dealer, pleaded guilty in December.

Warning: Never blindly vote for another lawyer, regardless of party affiliation.