Last week, on October 28, 2010, Bankruptcy Judge Carla E. Craig, who is the Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York, issued an administrative order adopting guidelines for standards of civility for the legal profession.
These guidelines were originally developed by the New York State Bar Association and incorporated into the New York State Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In adopting these guidelines, the Bankruptcy Court seeks to set a standard of practice in the Court that will promote the professional, civil, efficient and effective practice of bankruptcy cases.
The rules are essentially a list of common sense manners and protocols that all lawyers should be following in any event. It is unfortunate that some lawyers fail to act in a civil and professional manner, but having a set of standards will certainly make clear what is expected of the bar. The guidelines are aimed at maintaining the status of the legal profession as honorable and respected.
For the past 20 years I have been actively involved as a board member of the Theodore Roosevelt Chapter of the American Inns of Court , which is an organization of attorneys, judges and law students dedicated to the enhancement of civility, ethics and legal excellence in the practice of law. The recently-adopted guidelines are nothing new to our organization.
Click here to see the administrative order providing for the Adoption of New York State Standards of Civility .
What Does Civility in the Bankruptcy Court Mean?
In a nutshell, here are some of the basic principals espoused by the guidelines.
1. Attorneys should be courteous and civil. “Lawyers can disagree without being disagreeable.”
2. Lawyers should cooperate with opposing counsel in an effort to avoid litigation and to resolve litigation that has already commenced. As a pragmatic attorney, that echos my sentiments in all litigated matters. I feel that most litigation emanates from matters in which the parties cannot work together to reach a reasonable disposition.
3. A lawyer should respect the schedule and commitments of opposing counsel, consistent with protection of the client’s interests.
4. A lawyer should promptly return telephone calls and answer correspondence reasonably requiring a response.
5. The timing and manner of service of papers should not be designed to cause disadvantage to the party receiving the papers.
6. 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.
7 In depositions and other proceedings, and in negotiations, lawyers should conduct themselves with dignity and refrain from engaging in acts of rudeness and disrespect.
8. 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.
9. Lawyers should not mislead other persons involved in the litigation process.
10. 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.
11. A Judge should be patient, courteous and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses.