Civility and Collegiality — Unreasonable Judicial Expectations for Lawyers as Officers of the Court?
Lonnie T. Brown Jr.
University of Georgia School of Law
June 26, 2012
St. Mary's Journal on Legal Malpractice and Ethics, Vol. 2, p. 324, 2012
UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-10
It is a well-settled and often-recited fact that lawyers are “officers of the court.” That title, however, is notoriously hortatory and devoid of meaning. Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit recently took the somewhat unprecedented step of utilizing the officer-of-the-court label to, in effect, sanction an attorney for the purportedly uncivil act of failing to provide defendant attorneys with pre-suit notice. While the author applauds the court’s desire to place greater emphasis on lawyer-to-lawyer collegiality as a component of officer-of-the-court status, the uncertainty the decision creates in terms of a lawyer’s role will potentially force litigators to compromise important client-centered duties. This Article argues that it would be preferable for courts to define sanctionable officer-of-the-court duties by reference to well-defined, existing procedural and ethical norms, thereby enhancing predictability and imbuing the label with much-needed substance.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 49
Keywords: Sahyers v. Prugh, Holliday & Karatinos, P.L, legal ethics, collegiality, civility, attorneys, notice, professionalism, officer-of-the-court, pre-suit notice, judicial efficiency, litigation
JEL Classification: K19, K41Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 25, 2012
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