Tuesday, July 25, 2023
From the web page of the California State Bar
At its meeting on July 20, 2023, the State Bar of California’s Board of Trustees approved proposed measures to improve the civility of attorneys who are authorized to practice law in California. The proposed changes, which now go to the California Supreme Court for review and approval, are based on recommendations of the California Civility Task Force, a diverse group of more than 40 lawyers and judges. The group was sponsored by the California Lawyers Association and the California Judges Association.
The changes include:
- Amendments to California Rule of Court 9.7 to require lawyers to annually affirm or reaffirm their civility oath;
- A new State Bar Rule 2.3 to implement the changes to the oath; and
- Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct to make incivility a basis for discipline.
“Civility matters not simply because lawyers are examples to others on how to engage competing ideas and interests,” the task force’s final report states. “It matters because our system of justice simply cannot function fairly and reliably with systemic incivility.”
Since 2014, anyone admitted to practice law in California has taken an oath that includes, "As an officer of the court, I will strive to conduct myself at all times with dignity, courtesy and integrity." However, most practicing attorneys took the version of the oath before 2014 that did not include this language. The new proposed rules are designed to reinforce the oath’s aspirational language, ensure that all California attorneys affirm that they are bound by it, and support the intentions of the oath with corresponding ethical rules.
I await a definition of "civility" that can be reconciled with the obligation to zealously represent a client.
Good luck with that. (Mike Frisch)