Standards of Civility For The Legal Profession – Cirt. Judge Martin J. Sheehan Adopts These Rules for His Court.

  Kenton Circuit Judge J. Martin  Sheehan was interviewed for an article about his court procedures by  attorney Todd V. McMurtry for the Northern Ky. Bar Associations magazine, Lex Loci.  

 Judge Sheehan made reference to the Rules of Civility adopted by the New York Bar Association which he applies in his courtroom.  LawReader believes that these rules would be useful in Kentucky.



 The New York State Standards of Civility for the legal profession set forth principles of behavior to which the bar, the bench and court employees should aspire. They are not intended as rules to be enforced by sanction or disciplinary action, nor are they intended to supplement or modify the Rules Governing Judicial

Conduct, the Code of Professional Responsibility and its Disciplinary Rules, or any other applicable rule or requirement governing conduct. Instead they are a set of guidelines intended to encourage

lawyers, judges and court personnel to observe principles of civility and decorum, and to confirm the legal profession’s rightful status as an honorable and respected profession where courtesy and civility are observed as a matter of course.

 The Standards are divided into four parts: lawyers’ duties to other lawyers, litigants and witnesses; lawyers’ duties to the court and court personnel; judges’ duties to lawyers, parties and witnesses; and court personnel’s duties to lawyers and litigants.

 As lawyers, judges and court employees, we are all essential participants in the judicial process. That process cannot work effectively to serve the public unless we first treat each other with courtesy, respect and civility.

 Lawyers’ Duties to Other Lawyers, Litigants and Witnesses

 I. Lawyers should be courteous and civil in all professional dealings with other persons.

 A. Lawyers should act in a civil manner regardless of the ill feelings that their clients may have toward others.

B. Lawyers can disagree without being disagreeable. Effective representation does not require antagonistic or acrimonious behavior. Whether orally or in writing, lawyers should avoid vulgar

language, disparaging personal remarks or acrimony toward other counsel, parties or witnesses.

C. Lawyers should require that persons under their supervision conduct themselves with courtesy and civility.

 II. When consistent with their clients’ interests, lawyers should cooperate with opposing counsel in an effort to avoid litigation and to resolve litigation that has already commenced.

 A. Lawyers should avoid unnecessary motion practice or other judicial intervention by negotiating and agreeing with other counsel whenever it is practicable to do so.

B. Lawyers should allow themselves sufficient time to resolve any dispute or disagreement by communicating with one another and imposing reasonable and meaningful deadlines in light of the nature and status of the case.

 III. A lawyer should respect the schedule and commitments of opposing counsel, consistent with protection of the client’s interests.

 A. In the absence of a court order, a lawyer should agree to reasonable requests for extensions of time or for waiver of procedural formalities when the legitimate interests of the client will not

be adversely affected.

B. Upon request coupled with the simple representation by counsel that more time is required, the first request for an extension to respond to pleadings ordinarily should be granted as a matter of courtesy.

C. A lawyer should not attach unfair or extraneous conditions to extensions of time. A lawyer is entitled to impose conditions appropriate to preserve rights that an extension might otherwise jeopardize, and may request, but should not unreasonably insist on, reciprocal scheduling concessions.

D. A lawyer should endeavor to consult with other counsel regarding scheduling matters in a good faith effort to avoid scheduling conflicts. A lawyer should likewise cooperate with opposing counsel when scheduling changes are requested, provided the interests of his or her client will not be jeopardized.

E. A lawyer should notify other counsel and, if appropriate, the court or other persons at the earliest possible time when hearings, depositions, meetings or conferences are to be canceled or postponed.

 IV. A lawyer should promptly return telephone calls and answer correspondence reasonably requiring a response.

 V. The timing and manner of service of papers should not be designed to cause disadvantage to the party receiving the papers.

 A. Papers should not be served in a manner designed to take advantage of an opponent’s known absence from the office.

B. Papers should not be served at a time or in a manner designed to inconvenience an adversary.

C. Unless specifically authorized by law or rule, a lawyer should not submit papers to the court without serving copies of all such papers upon opposing counsel in such a manner that opposing counsel will receive them before or contemporaneously with the submission to the court.

 VI. A lawyer should not use any aspect of the litigation process, including discovery and motion practice, as a means of harassment or for the purpose of unnecessarily prolonging litigation or increasing litigation expenses.

 A. A lawyer should avoid discovery that is not necessary to obtain facts or perpetuate testimony or that is designed to place an undue burden or expense on a party.

B. A lawyer should respond to discovery requests reasonably and not strain to interpret the request so as to avoid disclosure of relevant and non-privileged information.

 VII. In depositions and other proceedings, and in negotiations, lawyers should conduct themselves with dignity and refrain from engaging in acts of rudeness and disrespect.

 A. Lawyers should not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be appropriate in the presence of a judge.

B. Lawyers should advise their clients and witnesses of the proper conduct expected of them in court, at depositions and at conferences, and, to the best of their ability, prevent clients and witnesses from causing disorder or disruption.

C. A lawyer should not obstruct questioning during a deposition or object to deposition questions unless necessary.

D. Lawyers should ask only those questions they reasonably believe are necessary for the prosecution or defense of an action. Lawyers should refrain from asking repetitive or argumentative questions and from making self-serving statements.

 VIII. A lawyer should adhere to all express promises and agreements with other counsel, whether oral or in writing, and to agreements implied by the circumstances or by local customs.

 IX. Lawyers should not mislead other persons involved in the litigation process.

 A. A lawyer should not falsely hold out the possibility of settlement as a means for adjourning discovery or delaying trial.

B. A lawyer should not ascribe a position to another counsel that counsel has not taken or otherwise seek to create an unjustified inference based on counsel’s statements or conduct.

C. In preparing written versions of agreements and court orders, a lawyer should attempt to correctly reflect the agreement of the parties or the direction of the court.

 All  Lawyers should be mindful of the need to protect the standing of the legal profession in the eyes of the public. Accordingly, lawyers should bring the New York State Standards of Civility to the attention of other lawyers when appropriate.

 Lawyers’ Duties to the Court and Court Personnel

 I. A lawyer is both an officer of the court and an advocate. As such, the lawyer should always strive to uphold the honor and dignity of the profession, avoid disorder and disruption in the courtroom, and maintain a respectful attitude toward the court.

 A. Lawyers should speak and write civilly and respectfully in all communications with the court and court personnel.

B. Lawyers should use their best efforts to dissuade clients and witnesses from causing disorder or disruption in the courtroom.

C. Lawyers should not engage in conduct intended primarily to harass or humiliate witnesses.

D. Lawyers should be punctual and prepared for all court appearances; if delayed, the lawyer should notify the court and counsel whenever possible.

 II. Court personnel are an integral part of the justice system and should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.

 Judges’ Duties to Lawyers, Parties and Witnesses

 I. A judge should be patient, courteous and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses.

A. A judge should maintain control over the proceedings and insure that they are conducted in a civil manner.

B. Judges should not employ hostile, demeaning or humiliating words in opinions or in written or oral communications with lawyers, parties or witnesses

C. Judges should, to the extent consistent with the efficient conduct of litigation and other demands on the court, be considerate of the schedules of lawyers, parties and witnesses  when scheduling hearings, meetings or conferences.

D. Judges should be punctual in convening all trials, hearings, meetings and conferences; if delayed, they should notify counsel when possible.

E. Judges should make all reasonable efforts to decide promptly all matters presented to them for decision.

F. Judges should use their best efforts to insure that court personnel under their direction act civilly toward lawyers, parties and witnesses.

 Duties of Court Personnel to the Court, Lawyers and Litigants

 I. Court personnel should be courteous, patient and respectful while providing prompt, efficient and helpful service to all persons having business with the courts.

 A. Court employees should respond promptly and helpfully to requests for assistance or information.

B. Court employees should respect the judge’s directions concerning the procedures and atmosphere that the judge wishes to maintain in his or her courtroom

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