State Bar issues civility guidelines for lawyers
By Julia Cheever
July 21, 2007
The State Bar is asking California's 211,000 lawyers to be a
little kinder and gentler.
The bar's board of governors approved a set of voluntary civility
guidelines for lawyers at a meeting in Santa Monica on Friday.
Bar spokeswoman Diane Curtis said the recommendations result
from an initiative by bar President Sheldon Sloan of Los Angeles
to address a perceived rise in unbecoming behavior by lawyers
in and out of court.
Sloan said on Friday, "We felt the State Bar ought to take
the lead. There's got to be a gold standard somewhere."
The bar leader said an example of lack of civility is lawyers
scheduling depositions of witnesses on dates when they know an
opposing attorney is planning a vacation or scheduling meetings
right before a holiday.
A bar task force developed the guidelines by using the Santa
Clara County Bar Association's Code of Professionalism as a starting
The group then considered suggestions from 30 county and specialized
bar groups and individuals before coming up with the 15-page statewide
Individual lawyers in California are asked to pledge voluntarily
to follow the guidelines and tell clients of their commitment.
The pledge promises, "I will abstain from rude, disruptive,
disrespectful and abusive behavior and will act with dignity,
decency, courtesy and candor with opposing counsel, the courts
and the public."
Among other items, the guidelines prohibit disrespectful remarks
about other lawyers, judges and parties in a case.
"An attorney should not disparage the intelligence, integrity,
ethics, morals or behavior of the court or other counsel, parties
or participants when those characteristics are not at issue,"
the document says.
The guidelines also urge lawyers to be considerate and not to
try to take advantage of opponents when serving papers and scheduling
depositions, which are formal interviews in which witnesses give
pretrial sworn statements.
Curtis said the state guidelines are intended to coordinate with
and not to replace local codes of conduct already put in place
by county bar associations in California.
The State Bar, with headquarters in San Francisco, is a regulatory
agency in charge of licensing and disciplining lawyers. All of
the approximately 211,000 lawyers practicing in California are
required to be members.
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