This post is used as source material for Prof. Blankenship’s courses.
In the quaint town of Mayfield, known for its tight-knit community, lived a meticulous court clerk named Hannah. Her reputation was sterling, her integrity indisputable. She handled all court matters with meticulous precision, and her impartiality and moral rectitude were beyond question.
One day, Hannah found herself assigned to a controversial case involving the town’s popular Mayor, who was accused of embezzling funds. The evidence was mounting, and the town was split between those who believed in the Mayor’s innocence and those convinced of his guilt.
Late one evening, after a long day of work, Hannah noticed a new notification on her phone. An unknown user had sent her a significant sum of money on a private Venmo. Later that day, Hannah received a text message that read: “For the Mayor’s case file to get lost in the shuffle.”
Hannah’s heart pounded in her chest as she read the message again. The money transferred was substantial, more than enough to pay all her debts and ensure the much-needed medical care for her ailing parents. The offer was clandestine, virtually untraceable, wrapped in the anonymity that technology often provides.
Hannah stared at her phone screen, her mind swirling in a storm of emotions. The notion of accepting the bribe was a clear breach of her ethical code, but the prospect of solving her personal predicaments was increasingly tempting. And there was the insidious thought that, if she took the money, it was likely that no one would ever find out.
The battle between her desperate personal circumstances and her moral compass raged on. Hannah, the meticulous court clerk, found herself at a crossroads. Faced with an ethical dilemma in the silence of her home, she held in her hands the power to dramatically alter the course of her life. Her decision hung in the balance, its outcome yet uncertain.
The next day, she walked into the court office with the envelope. She waited until the presiding judge, a stern but fair woman, was in her court chambers alone. With a shaky hand, Hannah presented the envelope and explained the situation.
The judge listened quietly, her face betraying no emotion. Once Hannah finished her account, the judge sighed, “Hannah, you did the right thing bringing this here. We must uphold the justice system, no matter who is involved. That said, Mayor is your friend, isn’t she? I know the Mayor is my friend. Don’t you have a shredder close to your desk?”
Hannah excused herself from the judge’s chambers.
That night, Hannah reviewed the Judicial Code of Ethics for her jurisdiction and confirmed that the judge had the same duty to maintain the integrity of the court – and court records – as she did.