Enforcing Civility: Holding Attorneys to a Higher Standard of Conduct
39th Annual American Bar Association National Conference on Professional Responsibility, May 2013
14 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2013
Date Written: May 31, 2013
As there continue to be incidents of attorneys slapping opposing counsel at depositions, attorneys personally attacking each other during litigation (including in one case disparaging remarks about an attorney’s alleged lack of parenting ability), and numerous other rude and disrespectful behavior by attorneys, incivility remains a pervasive problem in the legal profession. The response thus far to incivility by the legal profession includes voluntary civility codes and calls for professionalism. These responses fail to address the systemic issue of incivility in the legal profession. As a result, several states added civility to their oaths of admission, while several jurisdictions took the final step by making civility mandatory.
This article discusses how civility can be enforced, as well as the benefits of mandatory civility and the purported disadvantages of mandatory civility. This article concludes that state bars should make civility mandatory and hold attorneys to a higher standard of conduct. As the former United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, "More civility and greater professionalism can only enhance the pleasure lawyers find in practice, increase the effectiveness of our system of justice, and improve the public’s perception of lawyers."
Keywords: mandatory civility, professionalism, attorney misconduct, ethics, incivility, rules of professional conduct, legal profession
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