Ethics and the law

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ETHICS AND THE LAW
Defining Ethics
Chapter 1.1
HOW ETHICAL DECISIONS ARE MADE
The difference between right and wrong can be
difficult to determine
 Morality – involves the values that govern
society’s attitude toward right and wrong
 Ethics – in contrast, are the means for
determining what a society’s values ought to be

THE GREATEST GOOD PRINCIPLE
Most people live and work together in society
 Because of these relationships, every action has
the potential to affect other people
 The decision of a ‘wrong action’ is based on
whether an action will create the greatest good
for the greatest number of people
 The more good that results, the more ethical the
action

“THE GOLDEN RULE”
“Do unto others as you would have them do to
you”
 Some may identify this rule with religion, but it
is universal
 The heart of this rule is empathy, which means
putting yourself in another person’s position
 This rules says that those who wish to be treated
with respect must first be respectful to others
 Can be misused for personal gain

ETHICAL CHARACTER TRAITS
Honesty
 Being open and
truthful
 Its not easy to be
honest in every
situation
 This person can be
trusted and keeps
their promises

Justice
 Treating people fairly
and equally
 Being capable of
treating EVERYONE
fairly and not just
family and friends

ETHICAL CHARACTER TRAITS CONT….
Compassion
 Being sympathetic to
the difficulties of
others and wants to
help
 Respect for other
people and their right
to make their own
decisions

Integrity
 Willing to do the right
thing, regardless of
personal consequences
 Stand up for their
convictions even if the
majority is against
them
 Willing to take the
risk for their moral
beliefs

WHY LAW IS NECESSARY
Law – is the system of rules of conduct
established by a government of a society to
maintain stability and justice
 It defines the legal rights and duties of the people
 Provides a means of enforcing these rights and
duties through law enforcement agencies, courts,
legislatures, and regulatory agencies

ETHICAL AND LEGAL CONFLICTS
Law is made by people, therefore imperfect
 Ethics and law will sometimes conflict
 Legislators and judges bring their own personal
opinions and views
 Regardless, having laws is better than not having
any

CASE SITUATION

Alex witnesses a
mugging while
walking home from
school. He continues
on his way instead of
getting involved. Can
the law force Alex to
testify? What can the
law do about the
mugger? How does
this demonstrate why
law is necessary?

Answer: The law
cannot force Alex to
admit he witnessed
the mugging. The law
can punish the
mugger. The law
draws the line
between allowable
and unallowable
actions so people do
not harm each other.
CASE SITUATION

Jackie and Min are not the
best of friends. They come
from different cultures and
care very little about what
happens to each other.
While playing softball on
opposing teams, Jackie’s
teammate Lori tagged Min
out and 2nd base. Jackie,
who was playing shortstop
saw the Lori’s foot was not
on the bag and pronounced
Min safe. Which ethical
principal was Jackie
applying?

Answer: The Golden Rule
ETHICS AND THE LAW
Sources of Law
Chapter 1.2
THE 5 MAIN SOURCES OF US LAW
Constitutional Law
 Common Law (except in Lousiana)
 Statutory Law
 Court Decisions
 Administrative Regulations

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
A country’s constitution spells out the principles
by which the government operates
 The US Constitution sets forth the fundamental
rights of citizen
 There are 7 articles
 27 amendments
 States have their own constitution

ENGLISH COMMON LAW
Legal system is rooted in English common law
 Stems from the early settlers
 In early days, a court system was established
 Judges traveled in circuits deciding cases
 Because laws were not written down, judges
often made decisions based on customs and
traditions of the people = common law
 Eventually court decisions were written down
and judges would refer to past cases when
making decisions = doctrine of precedent

STATUTORY LAW
Statutes are laws specifically passed by a
governing body that has been created for the
purpose of making laws.
 Statutes can:

Be created to declare the law on a particular issue or
govern certain circumstances
 May order people to do something
 Forbid people from doing things
 Prevent people from discriminating in employment


Statutory law is found in both federal and state
statutes
COURT DECISIONS
Court-made law is often called case law, court
decisions, and judge-made law
 Decisions made by the highest court of any state
become the law of that state and must be
followed by other courts within that state
 When a statute seems to be confusing,
incomplete, or unclear, it is the courts job to
figure out what the statute means

ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATIONS
The use of administrative agencies, a.k.a.
regulatory agencies, by federal and state
legislatures serves as a means to regulate certain
kinds of activities
 Administrative Law consists of those rules and
procedures established by regulatory agencies
 For example, the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) regulates broadcasting
 These agencies have a great deal of power but
can be put to an end or have its power changed
by the legislature that created it

CASE SITUATION

Lucy wants to quit high
school. However, a state
law forbids minors from
dropping out of school. The
same statute gives juvenile
court the right to suspend
the driver’s license of any
minor that has dropped
out of school. Lucy argues
that statutes passed by the
legislature may be able to
forbid certain acts, such as
stealing, but they cannot
order her to attend school.
Is she correct? Explain
your answer.



Answer: No, she is not
correct. A statute may
order people to do
something.
Each state has its own
laws governing minors and
dropping out of school.
Each situation is dealt
with individually following
certain criteria.
NYS = must have turned
17 by July 1st.

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