Noted ethics philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell once was questioned by the Harvard Board of Governors about having an extramarital affair with a student. When faced with the hypocrisy of being an ethics professor engaged in immoral conduct, Russell argued his private affairs had nothing to do with his professional duties. “But you are a Professor of Ethics!” maintained one of the board members. “I was [also] a Professor of Geometry at Cambridge,” Russell rejoined, but “they never asked me why I was not a triangle.” Lecturing on ethics was a job for Russell; it didn’t mean he had to live an ethical life.
Should we listen to someone who chose to teach ethics by day and betray it by night? Should we expect a speaker to vouch for his opinion through his own conduct? The law teaches us to ascribe less weight to an opinion when the speaker suffers from a credibility problem. But what constitutes a credible source? Lawyers who engage in the presentation of evidence devote a lot of mental energy to this question. Whether the trier of fact believes a witness’s testimony about a disputed fact — or, more particularly here, his opinion on a subject on which he is proffered as an expert — is everything to a case.
This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.
To view this content, please continue to their sites.
LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.
For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]