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We're all governed by different sets of morals in life. But what happens when personal morals and beliefs interfere with obligations in the workplace? For a lawyer, it's a common occurrence. It happened to me recently when my boss walked into my office and asked if I wanted to work on a big case with an attorney handling product liability lawsuits. First, this is not my area of expertise. I'm a trademark lawyer, working to clear and protect major brands throughout the world. Second, the client is a large car manufacturer being sued for faulty equipment which resulted in death or serious injury for others. My role in the case would be negotiating settlements to compensate people for brain damage or serious injury. In some situations, I would be negotiating with family members of the deceased to settle lawsuits against the car manufacturer. How can you place a monetary value on the ability to think, or on the loss of a loved one? I don't wish to be put in this position, so I declined the offer to work on the case. As a result, I lost a big financial bonus. The other attorney wasn't pleased with my decision and made it known to my boss.

The issue also frequently arises for defense attorneys, but these people are usually a unique breed. People who really believe in the justice system and the founding principle that everyone deserves a trial. Some of my friends work on the defense side, representing people they know are guilty of assault, physical abuse, major drug crimes or even murder. Where such people draw the line is unclear to me. What if your client admitted he or she is a child molester? Could you still represent them, try to find some loophole in the prosecutor's case, and save them from a conviction? For me the answer to all of these scenarios is NO.

I'm certain people in other professions face similar dilemmas. How about ad agencies? What if you were asked to advertise a harmful drug or target alcohol or cigarette ads to poor people or minors? Or work on an ad campaign for the KKK or some other extremist group to which you are opposed? One of my friends always tells me to push personal beliefs and morals aside and just "do the fucking job."

Of course the most extreme examples are the whistle-blowers, people who betray their executive, clearance and intelligence obligations to out what they believe are government or corporate wrongs. In general, I fully support these people. But this Snowden character, currently hiding out in Moscow, is distinguishable. He admitted he took the defense contractor job with the sole purpose of leaking classified information. Honestly I don't know what to think of him. I will say only that I don't really care if the U.S. government is monitoring my calls or emails if it prevents homegrown and international extremists from launching attacks. I don't know how Russian press is treating this, but it's a real international saga in the U.S. media. The burning question is how long will Putin shelter Snowden?

What do you think? Do we have a right to let moral or personal beliefs interfere with the job we're being paid to do? If it means the difference between a paycheck and unemployment, the moral line I've drawn may certainly be blurred but I doubt it will ever be fully erased.


( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 26th, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
I don't face this at my work, but if one day someone will offer me to advertise something bad or harmful in my blog, I'd say NO.
Jun. 26th, 2013 02:50 am (UTC)
We cannot agree on men or sex. But saying NO to harmful advertising - yes, we think the same way on this issue! :))
(no subject) - inamora - Jun. 26th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2013 03:26 am (UTC)
It's depend: "child molester" no way,but if some drug diller killed another it's ok for me to represent him .
Jun. 26th, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
What if the drug dealer killed a normal person? Could you represent him? I think this is a normal mentality. That it's okay for bad people to kill one another, or it's okay for someone to inflict harm on a bad person. For instance, if someone's child is molested, people would be more forgiving if the parent shot the molester, etc. There's a whole TV series based on this premise called "Dexter." I don't know if the show is well-known in Russia.
(no subject) - fesma94 - Jun. 27th, 2013 03:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2013 04:31 am (UTC)
I think it's possible to find a job that will match with our morals. And in this case a salary doesn't matter.

*Off top: Perry Mason is my favorite attorney :)
Jun. 26th, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
Perry Mason. :) There's a U.S. TV show from the late 90's about a female attorney that I really like. It's called Ally McBeal. The show is full of funny and interesting characters. It's part comedy, part drama.
(no subject) - mybathroom - Jun. 26th, 2013 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC)
I did not hear him saying it was his "sole" purpose. Would be nice to have his direct speech.

There is much more than a "moral" question to me, the concern is about the basic rights of people. And I'd be outraged. An intelligence service, secret or not, is an authority that must obey the basic rights of the people. Privacy is one of them. If I am not mistaken, there is a statement about this in the US Constitution. If they want to break your privacy they must have a court decision allowing them to do so for a good reason and a specific case. Clearly, they want it to be different. Control of information about yourself increases the power of government authorities on you. The more they know, the bigger is the Big Brother that is watching you, and the less power you have to resist him or just fight off to let you live in peace.

Allowing the authorities to read your E-mails that are expected to be private, making searches of your belongings and stripping you down with no options to resist, etc., etc., is always justified by a zillion extremists just waiting for a chance to blow you up. The reality is, an extremist in the US and in the West is an extremely rare animal. There have been only two or three attack ATTEMPTS in the US within 12 years after 11/9. There have been just four plots to attack the airplanes in the Western countries in 12 years after 11/9, and all of them failed. Your chance of being hit by extremists are probably a bit higher than being hit by a meteor and a lot less than being shot dead in a shooting attack, which are A LOT more common, but still do not lead to firearms ban. Road incidents have a five orders of magnitude higher probability than this. The money spent by the US to the national security is about $75 bln per year which is only justified if you have approximately 1000 Boston attacks per year, or one 11/9 attack per year. I think they were just wasting your money. But there is never enough money and power, and now they try to sneak in into your PC without even being given the right to do so.

And "I don't care" is not a really good option. When they don't see extremists on horizon, they will be looking for them in the lawful population. Having unlimited power provokes to use it for other purposes: to spy on senators, on business, on political opponents and on you, and this will have nothing to do with your interests, but only with the interests of keeping their power and control to make their political positions undisputable.

Putin is no better. He is, too, the man of control. So Snowden is not his type and he will get rid of this guy; he just wants to show his resistance to the US, nothing more. In Russia, we are under surveillance as well. The intelligence service is spying on all political opponents, most of the NGOs, many political and public activists. They recently revealed that the phone of Mr. Navalny has been listened to from as early as 2009 when we didn't even hear his name.

Yes, they are monitoring the extremists at the same time and prevent a number of terror attacks. But the main goal is always different and it is the same both in the US and in Russia. It is to keep the fat guys in power to be in power forever.

Ask yourself a question, are you ready to give up your basic right of privacy to keep the fat guys in power to remain in power forever?

Edited at 2013-06-26 05:46 am (UTC)
Jun. 26th, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
As always, you've written a very thorough and thoughtful response. :) Probably it was too broad a statement to say "I don't care." You know that I'm a huge proponent of civil liberties, and what's more important than privacy? I was speaking only in the context of intelligence gathering for national security. But you're right, the U.S. government is no different than others and abuses what limited rights it has to surveillance to acquire information to which they're not entitled.

But homegrown extremists are a continuing problem. The Tsnarnaev brothers are the latest example. We had the Fort Hood shooter, and all of these people who walk into public places like schools or movie theatres and blow their fellow citizens away with guns. They're all extremists in my mind. I'm not speaking only about Islamists or traditional "terrorists."

The Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful "searches and seizures." But there are exceptions to when a warrant is required and public safety is one of them. Besides the First Amendment, this is probably one of the most important protections in the Bill of Rights.

Putin, well he's not going to hand over Snowden. It's like a wet dream for him - to have the U.S. begging him for cooperation and him having ultimate control. But he's under no legal obligation to return Snowden as the U.S. has no extradition agreements with Russia. If Putin wished to cooperate, he could easily find a basis to return him (maybe Snowden doesn't have the requisite Russian visa or something similar), but this will not happen. And honestly, America cannot be demanding cooperation from countries like China when they would not do the same in return. If a political dissident from China fled to America, we would likely protect him or her and ignore China's demand for return.

It's all a very slippery slope when it comes to civil liberties, be it expression, privacy, etc. I write about it frequently, but don't have the answers. There's never an easy solution or balance.
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 26th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
I'm a lawyer and I totally understand what are you talking about. I have personal beliefs and even if someone can pay me much money for a case murder, assault, physical abuse or something like this (in Russia преступления против личности), I say no. It's not for me and I can't defense people who can do these things. Even if it's just a job.
Sorry for my English, it's not so good:)
Jun. 26th, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
Good for you! Your English is fine. I understand you completely. :)
Jun. 26th, 2013 10:54 am (UTC)
Hi again, Wow, you have started to discus today a really difficult problem. You are, today, US Dostoevskiy at least. It`s not a joke. Moral question in the job is very important to me. Only one thing makes it difficult, femaly with kids. There is a rule in Customs house, be the man of his word. And your honest name cost a lot in our dirty business.
Thank for the post.
P.S. in one old Soviet toon, Armenian one, Armenia was Soviet repablic, old man said, " make good things, (or dids), and throw`em into the deep see". They gonna be back when you never be expected.
Jun. 26th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: moral
Based on the lack of comments this issue isn't so interesting to others. :) But I'm glad you liked it. It seems "morals" are only interesting in the LJ community when they pertain to sexuality (gays, affairs, sexual relations, etc.). But my blog is not about that. There are plenty of female bloggers already writing about sex/relationships, including the first person who commented on this post. And she and the others do it quite well. It's not the focus of my blog.

U.S. Dostoyevsky - lol! :)) Regarding your P.S., this is the concept of karma. It's how I live my life - good deeds usually come back to you somehow, while bad ones come back to bite you in the ass. I've seen it happen many times with myself and others.

Edited at 2013-06-26 03:21 pm (UTC)
Re: moral - habarforever - Jun. 27th, 2013 04:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: moral - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 27th, 2013 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Vadim Podolskiy
Jun. 26th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
I think that you made a right choice. Honor and dignity above all. Your soul is immortal, your purse is not.

Government and other social/political institutions were made to protect individual, not vice versa, so moral is prior to right/duty (see Hugh Cecil's "Conservatism" for instance).

And considering Snowden - I do hope that he gets to a safer place, because what he did was also right. Israel had means to keep terrorism at bay before there was Internet, so I doubt that USA can't do the same.
In press he is mostly portrayed as a hero or at least as a good guy, for we do not want the Big Brother to look over our shoulder, we had enough of this since 1920-s.
Jun. 26th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comment. I agree on all points. Money/power - these things have never been driving forces in my life. Snowden should easily be granted political asylum in Ecuador, or some other country with favorable political asylum laws if U.S. officials do not somehow intercept him. And the chances of an intercept at this point seem unlikely.
Jun. 26th, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that it's very hard to do such job if it contradicts with your moral principles.
But if these workers' families want to cue a car manufacturer what is their goal? Money, anyway?
If so. they themselves are not against money for lives and health damage.
"To settle" in my understanding is then just a try to pay them such (or less) money without going to court.

BTW "to protect major brands" would contradict MY principles if we are talking about freedom of information or production of generic copies of medical drugs.

Concerining privacy and Snowden... it's a hard dilemma.
Technology now gives to terrorists too much power to impact others.
So the only solution to prevent this would be to watch almost everybody.
This scandal is maybe good for Putin but as he said in the very beginning of it Snowden's information is absolutely not a surprise.
I work in the IT industry and there always was pretty good understanding that all major mail services, search engines and social networks cooperate with the respective governments.
Jun. 26th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, to settle is to pay off the plaintiffs (those bringing the lawsuit) in order to avoid a lengthy trial. They're seeking money from the car manufacturer because they were injured, some of them very seriously, due to the company's negligence. So they want reimbursement for medical bills, pain/suffering, loss of work time, etc. And rightly so.

Generic copies of pharmaceuticals - this is a patent issue. Not trademark. :) I don't have a scientific or technical mind, and know nothing about patent law. I help companies and individuals protect their brand names around the world, and register them with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and other foreign equivalents. So, if someone is using the famous LEXUS brand as the name of their business and they are not affiliated with Toyota, I'll send them a letter and tell them to stop. It's just one example, there are lots of other factors in the trademark equation.
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Jun. 26th, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jun. 26th, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 26th, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
BTW you asked some time ago if we had scouts.

We had young pioneers :)
visualhistory. livejournal. com/277672.html
Jun. 27th, 2013 03:00 am (UTC)
Famous Russian jurist Koni once served as a prosecutor.
He wasn't convinced by his own evidences so he withdrew charges. But procedure in Russian court allowed defender to make his speech and it was his maiden speech! So he spoke with excitement saying something like "and prosecutor is wrong trying to prove..." etc. Jurors were tired after a long day of previous trials but he continued to speak. Finally, the jury had found the defendant guilty :)

One of the most famous stories by de Maupassant is "Boule de Suif". The plot is rather simple: respectable people flee from Rouen sharing the coach with a prostitute. They don't like her: she is so immoral! But they are hungry and she has food! So they love her: they like her food. At some moment they are arrested by Prussian officer who want to share a bed with the prostitute -- alas, she won't sleep with Prussian! All the respectable people try to convince her to do this for the sake of all them: officer won't let them go until he gets what he wants. But... When they continued the travel, they completely ignored her (especially when the food was concerned: now they had food, not her): how French girl could sleep with the enemy?

There is no reason for adults to discuss moral: everyone has it from childhood and won't change it easily :) Nekrasov has good poetry, I didn't find it in English, you may try to read in Russian: http://nekrasov.niv.ru/nekrasov/stihi/021.htm
Jun. 27th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC)
Re: Famous Russian jurist Koni once served as a prosecutor.
That defendant was really stupid! :) I've seen people in the business world completely lose sight of morals when big money is involved. So some people easily change their views when they see dollar signs waving in front of them.
They don't change their views: - xpo_xpo_xpo - Jun. 27th, 2013 03:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
>Do we have a right to let moral or personal beliefs interfere with the job we're being paid to do?
For me doing morally right thing (or even logically right) is definitely better than agreeing with everything the boss says.
Jun. 30th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
Me too! :)
Jul. 1st, 2013 10:14 am (UTC)
Well i guess it's all about Snowden's issue :))

Edited at 2013-07-01 10:15 am (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2013 10:17 am (UTC)
Failed to to insert a video..

(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 01:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mujlan01 - Jul. 1st, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Jul. 1st, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2015 07:39 am (UTC)
I for comrade Putin to not answer me )).. but in the USA find refuge, many of them defectors of the KGB .. common. . But your question about a psychological problem very serious and profound

But I , for instance, could never understand the doctors surgeons. and I could dissect the corpse.. it does not mean that I am "good" or "bad". or "undeveloped".. "All the people are very different and we are all one family, said Segal,Ринчопе" ))

Edited at 2015-12-16 08:21 am (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2015 02:17 pm (UTC)
What is your profession?
(no subject) - direkt_mashin - Dec. 16th, 2015 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Dec. 16th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - direkt_mashin - Dec. 16th, 2015 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2015 02:48 pm (UTC)
When started the program of space flight, the Chief Designer of the Queen was proposed in the Crimea to build a house of rest for astronauts. he personally drove up the coast and chose this place. Nearby the old fishing village, and the place was a military firing range. it was turned into a reserve . there is an ancient forest. I about it will tell. and there are mysterious stones ... well there's still the rest House was built
Dec. 16th, 2015 03:01 pm (UTC)
The reason I say "mysterious stones" . nowhere in the Crimea there are no more pebbles like this amazing teardrop shape.. I will show fotgrafii. have you heard of Santoro? I don't know how to write in Spanish "Holiness".. this is Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago such ekologistyka faith . Christian but with elements nigretyanki beliefs ... in Haiti Voodoo is black magic. quite an abomination - infamit/- мерзость...
Santoro Catholics.. that they are "thunder stones" is a fetish. "spaceships"
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