Bearing Witness

     Here’s an interesting hypothetical ethics question for you: Should you accept reimbursement from someone who has stolen from you?
     Don’t answer too quickly – this is a trick question.
     Could there be an assumption of risk in dealing with a known miscreant?
     I don’t know, but I direct your attention to a New York Appellate Division ruling last week called Simpson & Simpson v. Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman in which a law firm happily got reimbursement from a former employee who embezzled from it.
     Can you guess where the reimbursement came from?
     Yep – embezzlement from the next law firm the employee got a job with.
     Law Firm 2 has now sued Law Firm 1. It seems like they should split the cash but they’re law firms, so I assume they’d rather spend it on years of litigation.
     The obvious solution, however, is to help the employee find another job with a company that has lots of money.
     Law Practice Lesson: Never hire another firm’s former bookkeeper. You don’t know why they’re looking for a job.
     Another question: If an animal isn’t afraid of humans and people feed it and fondle it, is it a wild animal?
     That was just one of many interesting questions that came to my mind after reading a ruling last week from the Minnesota Court of Appeals called In the Matter of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Special Permit No. 16868.
     That innocuous title may have flown under the radar of other journalists, but it didn’t get by me. This is one of the most shocking and disturbing legal disputes I’ve come across.
     There may be a secret cult of bear porn.
     No, not the gay kind. The ursine kind.
     Oh, the judge who wrote this opinion didn’t come right out and say so, but you can read between the lines. To wit:
     “For $2,500 each, participants may participate in a four-day program that allows them to … hand feed uncollared and collared bears, as well as pet, kiss, sit next to, and pose for pictures with bears. Relator … ‘encouraged Bear Field Study Course participants not to post or otherwise publish pictures of bear handling and interaction taken during course activities, advising participants that the activities would not reflect well on the (Wildlife Research Institute).'”
     If those photos get out, no bear-lover will be able to run for public office.
     There’s also Bear Fight Club. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources somehow got a video showing a wildlife biologist “punching a bear in the face.”
     How else are you going to study bear reflexes during a bar fight?
     At this point, you may be wondering what the legal issue in this case was. It was this: Does putting a radio collar on a bear constitute “possession” of a wild animal?
     Silently ask yourself this question while humming the tune of “Single Ladies” and substituting “put a collar on it” for “put a ring on it.”
     Then imagine twerking bears.
     You can see why I was so scandalized by this thing.
     Now bear in mind (so to speak) that apparently both sides agreed that feeding bears – which the biologist was doing – made them fine with being with humans. Does that sound wild to you?
     Since the bears felt fine hanging out with people, the state agency decided to deny the biologist’s permit to “possess” wild animals by collaring them.
     And the court ruled collaring is constructive possession – but “the parties agree that hand-feeding of bears is legal in Minnesota.”
     Bears will continue to enjoy many delicious hands.
     Video cameras can stay in bear dens too. I don’t want to think about the future Internet sites…

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