Monday, January 28, 2013

Lawyers Behaving Badly Get Dressing Down From Civility Cops

At the Wall Street Journal, "Adversarial System Grows Obscenely Nasty; 'Get More Results With Sugar'":
In New York one night recently, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan donned his robes, walked onstage and belted out to his colleagues this heartfelt plea for lawyerly politeness (to the tune of "If I Were a Rich Man"):

"If lawyers were more civil

Daidle deedle daidle daidle daidle deedle daidle dum

They'd treat their breth-er-en with more respect

Wouldn't always yell, 'object.' "

The ditty struck a nerve—and brought down the house, a largely pinstriped crowd of 80 or so lawyers there for a musical refresher course on the virtues of civility.

But it is no laughing matter to those who fret that a tide of rudeness has engulfed the legal profession.

From courtroom yelling matches to insulting letters and depositions that turn into fistfights, some lawyers and judges worry that the adversarial system of justice has gotten a little too adversarial.

To rein in "Rambo" litigators, the politeness patrol is pushing etiquette lessons, and even seeking to have civility included in attorney oaths.

The well-mannered caution that lawyers who shout, lie and shoot off vulgar emails don't merely alienate judges and juries. They also slow the wheels of justice and cost clients money.

"Lawyers already have a bad enough reputation," said Stewart Aaron, a litigator and head of Arnold & Porter LLP's New York office. He performed alongside Judge Sullivan in the revue.
Continue reading.

This is professional civility, not political civility, or what Althouse calls the "civility bullshit."