The interesting question behind Sidney Powell's rock-and-a-hard-place and what it means

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Victoria Vuletich
Ethics Squared, LLC

Sidney Powell put herself between a rock and a hard place when answering Dominion Voting Systems’ billion-dollar defamation complaint against her. In short, Powell admitted that her public statements about the role of Dominion Voting Systems in the 2020 presidential election were not true. Powell’s own words were that her statements were:
“. . . vituperative, abusive and inexact” “political speech,” as well as “inherently prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, further arguing that “reasonable people would not accept” these alleged statements and allegations “as fact.”

The problem for Powell is that that she previously swore to a federal court of law that the very claims she characterizes as opinions, hyperbole, and exaggerations, were truthful facts.

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Courts and Evidence

In the United States, individuals and entities will not be deprived of their liberty or their money, or a state’s election will not be decertified, on the basis of opinions, hyperbole, and exaggerations. The evidentiary standard in a court of law is the equivalent of Detective Joe Friday saying: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan drove that point home recently. The court ordered Powell, and several other attorneys, to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit in defending their citizens and the State against Powell’s “opinions, hyperbole and exaggerations.” The Court also ordered Powell to attend continuing legal education classes and urged the Texas Attorney Discipline system to suspend Powell’s license to practice law.

Powell could lose her license to practice law, lose her money to Dominion Voting Systems or both.

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The Interesting Question

Why would  a smart, talented attorney who was highly regarded in her field paint herself into an ethical corner?

The U.S. District Court judge who sanctioned Powell believes her conduct was knowing and intentional, writing that:

This lawsuit represents a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process. . .  And this case was never about fraud—it was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so”

That is a big accusation.

Could it, though, be as simple as Powell being vulnerable to influences that we can all fall prey to? After all, playwriters and poets no less than Shakespeare have chronicled for centuries the follies of humans whose judgment was blinded by power and the lure of limelight. Today we have the new and pernicious dynamic of news feeds deliberately designed to trigger the addiction center of our brains.

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Freedom and Ethics

Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, and the author of the famous book “Man’s Search for Meaning” wrote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Freedom is not something outside of us.  Freedom is about that small space inside our heads between stimulus and response. It is about whether we choose to think fairly about others and critically of our motives before we respond to something or someone.

We are never free if we believe, without questioning, those in our news feeds all of whom benefit from keeping us fearful, outraged and divided against our fellow citizens.

If Sidney Powell knowingly and intentionally lied to overturn the election results – shame on her. If she is guilty of acting without questioning her news feed and own motives, then many of us must welcome her to a large club.

Our freedom is an individual, inside job.

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Victoria Vuletich  is an ethics attorney, educator, and speaker. She is founder and CEO of Ethics Squared LLC, which provides personalized ethical development programming grounded in active learning principals.


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