Image: Twitter

Image: Twitter

Looking for something about North Carolina of which to be at least semi-proud this morning? Well, here’s something in addition to the recent performance of the Carolina Panthers: at least our ethics laws for elected officials aren’t quite as absurdly toothless as New Jersey’s.

If you’re wondering why this fact as come to light in recent days, check out the story percolating through the news and sports pages about the embarrassingly troubled Governor of the Garden State, Chris “Salmon Sweater” Christie and his bizarre, make-you-cringe-and turn-away-in embarrassment bro-mance with Texas oilman and Dallas Cowboys football team owner, Jerry Jones.

You see, Christie, the Governor of a state with two of its own NFL teams, is for some strange and probably Freudian reason, a fan of the Cowboys and has been accepting free plane rides and tickets to Jones’ luxury box for himself and his family to root on the ‘Boys at big games. (In case you missed it, click here to check out Christie’s embarrassing celebratory performance on video this past Sunday).

So, you ask, how does a public official get away with accepting such expensive gifts from a rich fat cat who actually does business with New Jersey (Jones owns a company that just won a big, fat New York-New Jersey Port Authority contract)? Well, it turns out that there is a Texas-sized exemption in New Jersey’s ethics law that allows such gift to pols from “personal friends.”

We’re not making this up. And frankly, there would probably be a similarly vast exemption in North Carolina law were it not for the state’s brief embrace of semi-serious ethics reform in the aftermath of the Jim Black bribery scandal.

Under our laws, Read More


Woody WhitecTrial-Lawyer-Screenshot-Youtube

Woody White is a trial lawyer with a busy litigation practice in Wilmington.

But now as a candidate in the Republican primary for the Wilmington-area 7th District seat, from which Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre is retiring, the conservative White is under attack for simply doing his job.

In an ad blitz running this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is deriding White as typical of lawyers of a certain ilk who, in search of big paydays, file lawsuits that hurt business and destroy jobs.

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Yesterday the state bar association issued a statement generally condemning campaign ads which “unfairly attack those seeking elective office based on the performance of their duties as officers of the court.”

The bar association added:

Justices, judges, district attorneys and private practitioners execute their duties according to the rule of law under the strictest codes of ethics and professionalism. It is imperative that we respect the positions they hold within this priceless system of justice upon which our democracy rests.

The local Wilmington Chamber of Commerce (not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber) likewise distanced itself from the ad yesterday, saying that the organization “believes endorsements should be based on a fair representation of the candidate and not perpetuate the pervasive negativity in politics today.”

But the U.S. Chamber remains undeterred, vowing to continue its negative attack ads on lawyers running for office across the country through the primary season, with similar ads running in Idaho and Mississippi.

A similar battle has been playing out in South Carolina in response to a vicious ad sponsored by the Republican Governors Association attacking South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen for his prior work as a criminal defense attorney.

“It’s a fact,” the ad states, “trial lawyer Vincent Sheheen made money off criminals.”

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The ad quickly provoked several of the more than 15,000 lawyers belonging to the South Carolina Bar, prompting that organization to condemn the ad and criticize those behind it.

“Each and every one of us has a professional duty to ensure that justice is not rationed but is available to everyone, President Alice Paylor said in a statement. “It is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to ensure his or her client has a fair trial, not to defend the crime.”

Paylor reminded South Carolina attorneys that the group had recently launched a website to eradicate negative messages about the legal profession and encouraged them to take action in the face of attacks on the profession:

When you encounter smear tactics against lawyers in your community, I encourage you to help the Bar fight back. Lawyers promote good government and economic growth. They represent the individual, the small business, the larger entities and the government. Some of those individuals are the poorest in our communities, and lawyers go to court for them without charge.

The American Bar Association quickly joined in condemning the ad and President James Silkenat sent a letter to N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, chair of the RGA, asking the organization to withdraw the ad.

Silkenat reminded Christie, also an attorney and a former federal prosecutor, of the ethical obligation that lawyers have “to provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government — even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.”

He added:

The Republican Governors Association ad sends a disturbing message to lawyers—that their clients’ past actions or beliefs will stain their own careers, especially if they want to serve their country in public office. Voters who subsequently pass judgment on the candidate for the singular reason that he was a competent lawyer are disqualifying him from public service. On the contrary, lawyers who represent unpopular or guilty clients demonstrate the kind of courage and confidence in our legal system that characterizes the finest public servants.

So far there’s been no response from Christie, and there’s no sign that the RGA is backing down.

But one of Christie’s lawyers, Robert Luskin from Patton Boggs, did see the ad though and had this response:

Wow, it’s a disgrace. The people who talk incessantly about American exceptionalism ought to demonstrate some understanding — and some respect — for what makes our system truly admirable: that includes the willingness of lawyers to stand up for their clients no matter how ugly the allegation. But a lawyer is only, ever an advocate; he’s not a co-conspirator or an enabler.



Obama at lunchIf you’re sitting at your computer waiting for the President’s speech to commence at N.C. State (or in the audience staring at your smart phone), here are a few interesting links to keep you occupied:

First off, it looks like our leftist-socialist President continues to fail in his crusade to bring down capitalism. The Charlotte O reports this morning that Bank of America is the latest financial institution to report huge profits — in this case, the largest in six years.

Meanwhile click here to see the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average — which has been going pretty much nowhere but up throughout the Obama years. Back to the drawing board, comrades!

As for Obama’s prominent NC critics, both Gov. (“It’s all Bev’s fault”) McCrory and Sec. Aldona (“Heck of a job, Donie!”) Wos are apparently showing up to pay their respects to the Prez today. Good for them for rising at least slightly above partisan politics. Perhaps they’re feeling some kinship with someone struggling in the polls.

If she gets to say “howdy,” though, Wos might want to ditch the “everything is Obama’s fault” rap. As Sarah Ovaska reported this morning on the main PW page, Read More