"I don't want no tears,

I don't want no lies,

Above all, I don't want no alibis"

- Pigmeat Markham, "Here Comes The Judge"

No, Pigmeat, aka Dewey Markham, wasn't a real judge.

But he did deliver that catchy "Here Comes The Judge" verdict on NBC's "Laugh-In" - and in a single that reached No. 19 on the Billboard chart in 1968.

And Pigmeat, a Durham, N.C., native who died at age 77 in 1981, did frequently wear judicial attire when performing mock-jurist shtick.

Now judge for yourself:

Should S.C. Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning have ruled Monday that the S.C. House Ethics Committee, not Attorney General Alan Wilson, will - for now - handle the investigation of alleged violations in the use of campaign funds by Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston (see story on today's front page)?

Wilson's office said he will appeal that ruling to the S.C. Supreme Court.

Good. Harrell runs the House. Think "foxes guarding the henhouse."

Regardless of what you think about this and other ethics messes, though, politicians at all levels seem increasingly prone to stepping into them.

Are we electing more ethically challenged candidates these days?

Or are we watching them more closely - with long-reaching ripple effects?

For instance, if Ken Ard hadn't gotten caught using campaign funds to buy, among other things, clothes, a video game system and a family vacation, maybe he wouldn't have had to plead guilty to seven counts of campaign-finance violations and resign from the lieutenant governorship in 2012 after only 14 months on that job.

Then Glenn McConnell wouldn't have felt duty-bound under the state constitution to give up his job as S.C. Senate president pro-tem to become lieutenant governor.

Then McConnell might not have decided to go for - and get - the College of Charleston president's job.

Happy trails again

If Mark Sanford hadn't got caught wandering astray on "the Appalachian Trail" in 2009, he might have been a 2012 presidential, or at least vice-presidential, contender. Sanford pleaded no contest to four ethics charges and paid an S.C.-record (for now) $74,000 in fines.

Yet he made a remarkable political comeback last year by winning the 1st Congressional District special election, regaining the job he had held from 1995-2001.

And Gov. Nikki Haley escaped a potential ethics jam last year when the S.C. Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision to throw out fellow Republican John Rainey's lawsuit charging that she had used her S.C. house seat for personal gain as a lobbyist for Lexington Medical Center.

Gee, some S.C. Republicans are hard on each other.

Before rushing to sanctimonious judgments against politicians of any party or anybody else, however, review your own ethics.

Ponder these first two questions of "8 Ethical Tests" from "Character Matters" by Professor Tom Lickona, a developmental psychologist at the State University of New York at Cortland:

1) The Golden Rule: Would I want people to do this to me?

2) The Truth Test: Does this action represent the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Of course, in this era of relative morality, ignorance of the rules is an increasingly familiar excuse for breaches of ethics, law and basic decency.

Art imitates life in that buck-passing manner on the classic 1991 "Seinfeld" episode "The Red Dot."

George Costanza (Jason Alexander), soon after getting a job at a publishing company, has, well, let's just called it a romantic liaison with a cleaning lady on his office desk.

Called to account for that transgression by his new boss Mr. Lippman (Richard Fancy), George memorably muses:

"Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon, you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time."

Mr. Lippman correctly responds: "You're fired."

There goes the judge

So yes, Judge Pigmeat Markham got it right with: "I don't want no alibis."

And that brings us to Prof. Lickona's final "Ethical Test" puzzler ...

8) The Front Page Test: How would I feel if my action were reported on the front page of my hometown paper?

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.