Friday, March 25, 2011

Not all advice is good advice

I hope to write a longer post on the topic of people using bad judgment over the weekend. In the meantime, today’s news brings us the story of Carlos Lam.

Mr. Lam was, until Thursday, a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County, Indiana. As reported by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Mr. Lam emailed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, on February 19, 2010, and suggested that Governor Walker generate sympathy for his recent budget proposals by using “a ‘false flag’ operation.” Specifically, Mr. Lam suggested Governor Walker “employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions’ cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you), you could discredit the unions.”

In other words, Governor Walker should have one of his supporters attack him (with a gun!)while pretending to be a supporter of Governor Walker’s opponents.

When first contacted by the Center, Mr. Lam denied being the author of the email. Adopting the “Shaggy defense,” Mr. Lam stated, ““I am flabbergasted [by the email] and would never advocate for something like this, and would like everyone to be sure that that’s just not me.” Mr. Lam told the reporter that he was out shopping for a minivan with his family when the email was sent.

Initially, Mr. Lam’s protestations of innocence worked. His boss, Brad Cooper, the Prosecuting Attorney for Johnson County, defended Mr. Lam and announced there would be no investigation of the emails because Mr. Lam did not send them. However, by Thursday morning, Mr. Lam decided to fess up and resign.

Oddly, Mr. Lam is not the first prosecutor in Indiana to lose his job over current events in Wisconsin. Jeff Cox, an attorney with the Indiana Attorney General’s office, was fired after he tweeted that authorities should use live ammunition and deadly force to deal with the protesters in Wisconsin.

Mr. Lam and Mr. Cox have First Amendment right to say stupid things via email or via the Internet. Nevertheless, both of these individuals displayed appallingly bad judgment in deciding to transmit their respective messages. Mr. Lam’s email raises two basic questions. First, why did he think the Governor of Wisconsin needed his advice on how to handle the protests? Second, why did he think that faking an assassination attempt would be a good way to change the narrative in Wisconsin? It is difficult to fathom how such “false flag operation” would go undiscovered. Among other things there is a publicly available email from Mr. Lam suggesting the attempt.

In any event, it seems like Mr. Lam’s email is a good reminder that not every idea needs to be expressed and that lawyers representing the public should think twice before sending emails, publishing tweets, or writing blog posts.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Did the email begin, "Now, this may sound crazy, but..."? Or perhaps this is a false false flag operation, and Mr. Lam is actually a Democratic operative pretending to be a laughably incompetent Republican political hack in order to discredit the Republican party?


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