Report on April 2016 Business and Ethics Luncheon
By: Treaver Hodson, BYU Management Society Board.
Over 80 business leaders and professionals gathered at an annual ethics luncheon held Wednesday, April 13 in Sacramento, California. The gathering was sponsored by the local chapters of the BYU Management Society, St. Thomas More Society, and J. Reuben Clark Law Society. For more than a decade, these groups have been joining for this annual event. The featured speaker was Honorable Richard D. Fybel, Associate Justice of the California Fourth District Court of Appeals. He presented on the topic of “From the Absence of Judicial Ethics to Justice: The Nazi Judicial System (1933-1945) and the Nuremberg Trials.” The address was both compelling and thought-provoking. All in attendance were engaged in the topic and invited to consider its application in modern business and legal ethics.
As he commenced, Justice Fybel established that all the acts performed by the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany, during the 1930s and 40s, were technically “legal” under the judicial and legal system it established. By manipulating existing laws and methodically refining its authority through legislation, decrees, and judicial interpretations, the Party moved the government and its various components toward its intended objective: a totalitarian regime with full authority to “annihilate” enemies. Central principles to this movement included an unquestioning and absolute loyalty to the Party leader, an acknowledgement that supreme authority resided in the Party, and a corrupt commitment to racial inequality. Surprisingly, these principles were established and fortified through the legal and judicial system. Lawyers and judges found themselves in a moral abyss, failing to denounce or even protest as the rule of law succumbed to the fascist despotism.
Throughout his remarks, Justice Fybel explored the motivations of those who facilitated the institutionalization of these principles, many of whom were trained in the law that was being systematically ousted. Certainly, some may have actually embraced the Party’s outright deprivation of human rights. But, many claimed to be victims – merely following or applying the newly established legal standards. Justice Fybel artfully provided a more accurate depiction that the disregard for human dignity came from a willingness to dehumanize, an abandonment of judicial independence, a yielding to moral and ethical depravity, a disregard for the impact of individual decisions, and an inclination to act more from fear, than from moral courage.
Those in attendance were left to consider how we may have responded in the face of such degeneracy and to hope we would each find a better moral narrative to follow. In conclusion, Justice Fybel, with palpable conviction, encouraged all to recognize that no group, official, or principle ought to be considered superior to the basic humanity and individual rights that must be founded in the rule of law.
It was a great pleasure to have Justice Fybel with us. We hope you can join us at future events.