Hello everyone and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert which discusses the recent short Supreme Court of Florida Opinion which sets forth the Court’s concerns about “incivility” among lawyers and adds language to the Oath of Admission addressing these concerns. The unanimous Opinion was rendered on September 12, 2011 and became effective immediately. The Opinion cites In re: Snyder, 472 U.S. 634,647 (1985), wherein the U.S. Supreme Court referred to the “necessity for civility in the inherently contentious setting of the adversary process” and states that the new language in the Oath emphasizes “the importance of respectful and civil conduct in the practice of law”. The Opinion also states that “concerns have grown in recent years about incivility among attorneys” and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), among others, has taken steps to raise the level of awareness about the importance of civility in the practice of law.
The Opinion also notes that ABOTA’s Code of Professionalism includes a pledge to be “respectful in my conduct toward my adversaries.” In addition, South Carolina added a civility pledge to its oath of admission in 2003 and other states, including Utah and New Mexico, have done the same. The exact language added to Florida’s oath is as follows: “To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications.”
The current Oath of Admission prohibits “offensive personality” by lawyers and The Florida Bar has prosecuted lawyers for violations of the Oath of Admission in the past. The Opinion also was not the result of a request by The Florida Bar to change the language in the Oath.
Bottom line: As I have said and written about many times before, the Supreme Court of Florida has taken and continues to take a very clear position that civility and professionalism must be enforced in the practice of law and this Opinion continues that trend.
…be careful out there!
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
THE LAW OFFICE OF JOSEPH A. CORSMEIER, P.A.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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