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An act of judicial discretion?

judge.jpgThe Contra Costa Times runs an advice column, like many local papers. Last week, The Ethicist received an interesting inquiry regarding two lawyers:

I am a lawyer. During a first date with another lawyer, we had sex, and I wore a condom. Days later, when I came down with a bad fever and couldn’t determine the cause, she revealed that she had genital herpes. A judgeship will soon open up in her county, and she’s a near lock for it. But if I report her lapse of sexual ethics, I doubt that the selection committee will pick her. Should I?

The Ehticists’ response? Don’t do it, because she’s not applying to be a role model, and sexual misconduct has nothing to do with the ability to be a good judge. He goes on to explain:

Some private conduct does bespeak an inability to do a job. A would-be jurist who belonged to the Klan or even one who regularly used racist slurs would not inspire confidence in his or her ability to dispense equal justice to all. You should come forward with relevant information like that. But being unscrupulous in bed does not presage being inept on the bench, and so you should keep this demoralizing episode to yourself. And your doctor.

Now look — I’m not necessarily saying that the newly-herp’d lawyer should come forward, but this argument seems a bit thin to me. Sure, a judge who’s in the Klan would not inspire confidence, but only if it were known that she was in the Klan. You’re telling me that there might not be a similar (though not as strong) loss of confidence in a judge if you find out that she puts others’ health at risk by not disclosing her own VD? Makes no sense to me, Mr. Ethicist.

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Comments

That's all true, but imagine the drama when the lawyer burst into the confirmation hearing shouting "That Woman Gave Me HERPES!"

That's some real entertainment.

I don't know. Seems to me that the guy wants to report it because she gave him herpes and not because he thinks there would be something unethical about her behavior on the bench. It simply reaks of retribution and vengeance on his part and not a need to do the right thing.