The light from the window blinds cast stark shadows across my desk. I glanced up at the top of my filing cabinets and briefly studied the bottles of whiskies, debating if it was late enough in the afternoon to pour a shot.
No, too early still. I refocused and went back to studying the 74-page opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on my desk.
As I began to make a margin note, my pen suddenly gave up the ghost and ran out of ink. I sighed and reached into my desk for a replacement cartridge. Maybe the spirits were telling me it was time for that drink.
Her voice caused me to smile.
I looked up and saw her standing at my office door. Her arms were folded as she leaned against the doorjamb and studied me intently, a slight smile on her face.
I leaned back in my chair and sighed.
“Are you going to stand there and distract me, or are you going to come in and join me?”
She chuckled and walked into my office and sat down on the edge of my desk, glancing at the opinion scattered out in front of me.
“Good or bad?”
“Time for a drink, Mr. Lieberman?”
“With you… anytime.”
Sandy chuckled and walked over to the filing cabinet. She poured two glasses of Lagavulin and handed one to me as she sat down in the chair across from my desk.
We raised our glasses in a silent toast and both sat for a moment savoring the peaty taste of the whisky.
Well… at least I did.
“God… how do you stand this stuff?” she said with a sour look on her face, as she placed the glass on my desk.
“It requires a certain level of sophistication.”
“I haven’t seen you at all today; how was yours?”
“I came in for a drink didn’t I?”
“Hmmm… I see.”
“I saw you had a consultation today… new case?”
“No, just a client needing a bit of ethical guidance. Interesting philosophical dilemma though.”
“Oh? Tell me about it?”
“Actually, I am curious about your perspective here… adherence to the law… following the rules… is there an ethical component attached to that?”
“Well, it depends, I suppose. Is the law itself ethical?”
“Good question. What if it is neutral?”
“Well, you always say that predictability of outcome is essential for a well-regulated society, so I suppose there is a moral imperative to follow the rules, so to speak.”
“Yeah, I generally agree with that… but let me tell you a story.”
Sandy looked at me intently.
“So, this client shared a story with me. His grandmother and grandfather, along with their two kids (the client’s dad and aunt), were in Poland during the Nazi occupation and were rounded up by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp… actually a death camp. Both kids were young teenagers at the time. Anyhow, right before they were rounded up, the grandmother grabbed an expensive piece of jewelry and hid it in her dress. When they were about to be forced onto the train the grandmother used the jewelry as a bribe to get one of the guards to look the other way and allow the kids to escape and run off into the forest. The kids survived the war, and the grandparents perished. The only reason the client is alive today, even exists in the first place, is because of the actions of his mother.”
“Yeah, wow… but, the grandmother broke the law.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I have not obviously researched the Polish or Nazi penal code sections, but I am fairly certain there was some form of statutory prohibitions regarding bribing state actors.”
“But they were Nazis!”
“Render unto Caesar.”
Sandy smirked. “Leave it to you to twist the Bible into some form of a suicide pact.”
“No seriously. We see people here all the time who feel that laws, all laws, have some moral equivalency attached to them. If you knowingly violate that law, somehow there is a breach of ethics. Yet no one would dare to suggest that grandmother, who did whatever was possible to give her son and daughter the chance to live, did anything unethical.”
“Not all laws are equal, Steven. Some are so repugnant, so grounded in evil that following those laws would be an ethical violation itself.”
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political band which has connected them to another…”
Sandy raised her glass in another mock toast and winked at me.
“The difference between treason and patriotism is usually a matter of dates.”
I raised my glass towards hers.
“Let’s drink to being at the right point on the calendar.”