Suzanne M. Duvall, Ann Howey, Justice Douglas S. Lang, and D. Patrick Long 2017-12-20 04:44:15
In conjunction with the State Bar of Texas, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals proclaim April 20, 2018, to be the Texas Day of Civility in the Law. With this proclamation, all local bar associations are encouraged to participate in programs to commemorate the Texas Lawyer’s Creed and focus upon the obligation of all lawyers to conduct themselves civilly in the practice of law as described in the tenants of the creed and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Many local bars are already planning events to observe the Day of Civility on April 20, 2018. Other local bars may determine that another date is more practicable. Whether your local bar plans to observe the day on April 20, 2018, or on another date, support is available: In anticipation of this statewide event, the State Bar of Texas prepared a manual available at texasbar.com/professionalism with a proposed format that local bar associations may consult when planning their local Day of Civility event. The proclamation for a Day of Civility does not suggest a mere tip of the hat to the ideal of civility. Rather, the day is intended as a time for lawyers to remind themselves of their obligation to adhere to the core values of the legal profession—honesty, integrity, and civility—and to recommit themselves to civility in their practice of law. When lawyers commit to practicing law in accordance with a code of civility, they know they must conduct themselves with the utmost courtesy and professionalism toward judges, adversaries, peers, and workplace colleagues. They know they must perform their duties to their clients and interact with their colleagues with the highest degree of civility. The Day of Civility is also a time to discuss the fact that acting with civility is not incompatible with zealously advocating for clients—both are expected of lawyers. The Texas Lawyer’s Creed, in conjunction with the disciplinary rules, tells us precisely what is expected of lawyers. For example, in the order adopting the creed, our high courts firmly reminded lawyers of the importance of performing their duties in an ethical, professional, and civil manner: The conduct of a lawyer should be characterized at all times by honesty, candor, and fairness. In fulfilling his or her primary duty to a client, a lawyer must be ever mindful of the profession’s broader duty to the legal system. The keywords used in the creed, as set out above—honesty, candor, and fairness—fall right in line with the disciplinary rules. Lawyers should recall, for instance, Rule 2.01 (render candid advice to client), Rule 3.03 (candor toward the tribunal), and Rule 4.01 (truthfulness in statements to others).1 See also the portion of the creed wherein honesty is affirmed: “My word is my bond.” Moreover, when we were admitted to the bar, we took the Lawyer’s Oath, which includes some of the same imperatives: “I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitutions of the United States, and of this State; that I will honestly demean myself in the practice of law; that I will discharge my duties to my clients to the best of my ability; and, that I will conduct myself with integrity and civility in dealing and communicating with the court and all parties. So help me God.” Some lawyers may argue that the term “civility” is too vague to be considered a rubric for conduct. However, the meaning of civility is elementary. One of the best descriptions of the concept was provided by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in a speech at the 1987 American Bar Association Annual Meeting: “[Civility . . . ] is not some bumper-sticker slogan, ‘Have you hugged your adversary today?’ Civility is the mark of an accomplished and superb professional, but it is even more than this. It is an end in itself. Civility has deep roots in the idea of respect for the individual.”2 There can be no doubt that the term “respect for the individual” settles any controversy about the meaning of civility. We urge every lawyer to participate in our Texas Day of Civility in the Law. Fellow lawyers: Reaffirm the promises you made when you were sworn into the Texas Bar. Recommit to civility and to live by the tenants of the Texas Lawyers’ Creed and our disciplinary rules. Notes 1) Tex. Disciplinary Rules Prof’l Conduct R. 2.01, 3.03, 4.01, reprinted in Tex. Gov’t Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit. G, app. A (West 2013). 2) See also Higgins v. Coatsville Area Sch. Dist., No. 07-4917, slip op. at 10 (E. D. Pa. Sept. 16, 2009) (mem. op.). SUZANNE M. DUVALL is a Dallas-based mediator. She is chair of the Professionalism Committee of the State Bar of Texas. ANN HOWEY serves as associate general counsel to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, was previously employed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and is a member of the LeadershipSBOT Class of 2015-2016. JUSTICE DOUGLAS S. LANG is a justice of the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas, chair of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, a trustee of the American Inns of Court Foundation, a past president of the Dallas Bar Association and the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and a past chair of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. D. PATRICK “PAT” LONG is a trial lawyer with the global firm of Squire Patton Boggs.
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