Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Offensive Personality No Longer Unethical

The Arizona Supreme Court has amended its rules. Arizona attorneys are no longer required to "abstain from all offensive personality" and are now obligated to avoid "engaging in unprofessional conduct." The "offensive personality" prohibition had been attacked in California litigation as unconstitutionally vague. Thanks to the ABA/BNA Lawyers Manual on Professional Conduct for spotting the rule change. (Mike Frisch)

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It seems that the true meaning of "offensive personality" has been lost with the passage of time. A recent letter in the Washington Bar Journal points out that the term seems to derive from a now archaic meaning of "personality" as: a reference (often disparaging) to a person or group of persons. Thus, it would seem that "abstaining from offensive personalities" means to avoid groundless ad hominum attacks on other participants in legal proceedings, rather than to not act like a jerk. I'd be curious if any scholars have traced the history of the term to investigate this theory?

Posted by: Bill Severson | Oct 19, 2007 2:30:09 PM

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