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President’s Message

October 2016

 

 

The Western San Bernardino County Bar Association’s Installation Dinner is coming up on October 6, 2016.  This means that my term as President has come to an end.  This year has gone by so fast; I can hardly believe it.  I’m very proud of the WSBCBA.  We have many more members and we have expanded our MCLE’s to include cross-over issues in multiple areas of the law.  Our MCLE’s are well attended, as are our social events. Our Bar remains committed to mentoring our upcoming attorneys.  Our Bar also remains committed to assisting the judges with mediation.  We have a dedicated board of directors who offer their services tirelessly, with enthusiasm and concern for the bar. 

Our social events have been outstanding in bringing attorneys and judges together and developing a wonderful camaraderie amongst our legal community.   Many thanks to Angelique Bonnano for hosting our Bench Bar Barbeque, it was outstanding.  Many thanks to our Board of Directors for all their ideas and hard work.  And many thanks to Deva Mora, our Executive Director who works so hard and makes it all look so easy.

I have enjoyed my term as President and I have met many new faces.  It was indeed a privilege to be in this position for the last year and I welcome our new president, Daren Lipinsky.  He is hard working, caring, and competent and will be an excellent President.  I wish him all the best and I am looking forward to the next year.

Thank you all for your assistance and support this past year!!!!

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Recent events in our legal community have given me pause and caused me to do research on the rules which govern the conduct and behavior of our local attorneys and of attorneys across the state.

Of course, I went to the State Bar of California first and found the Civility Toolbox, posted on July 17, 2009.  The cover letter was written by Sheldon H. Sloan as President of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of California in 2007.  At the top of the letter was the following quote:

“As officers of the court with responsibilities to the administration of justice, attorneys have an obligation to be professional with clients, other parties and counsel, the courts and the public. This obligation includes civility, professional integrity, personal dignity, candor, diligence, respect, courtesy, and cooperation, all of which are essential to the fair administration of justice and conflict resolution.”

 

[California Attorney Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism]

 

I did not reprint the entire document as it was too big for this article, but I urge you to print and keep a copy in your office.

 

Business and Professions Code, Section 6067, states: 

Every person on his admission shall take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and faithfully to discharge the duties of any attorney at law to the best of his knowledge and ability. A certificate of the oath shall be indorsed upon his license.

 

In addition to the language required by Business and Professions Code section 6067, the oath to be taken by every person on admission to practice law is to conclude with the following:

“As an officer of the court, I will strive to conduct myself at all times with dignity, courtesy, and integrity.”

According to the Civility Code of the San Bernardino County Bar Association and 
The Hon. Joseph B. Campbell American Inn of Court, among other duties, I note the following:

Duties to Other Counsel

  1. We will practice our profession with a continuing awareness that our role is to advance the legitimate interests of our clients. In our dealings with others, we will not reflect the ill feelings of our clients. We will treat all other counsel, parties, and witnesses in a civil and courteous manner, not only in court, but also in all other written and oral communications. We will promptly respond to telephone calls and letters of opposing counsel. 
  2. We will not abuse or indulge in offensive conduct directed to other counsel, parties or witnesses. We will abstain from disparaging personal remarks or acrimony toward other counsel, parties, or witnesses. We will treat adverse witnesses and parties with fair consideration. 
  3. We will not attribute bad motives or improper conduct to other counsel or make unfounded accusations of impropriety. 
  4. We will not seek court sanctions without first conducting a reasonable investigation and unless fully justified by the circumstances and necessary to protect our clients’ lawful interests. We should always contact opposing counsel and make a good faith effort to resolve the issue before bringing such a matter before the court.
  5. We will adhere to all promises and agreements with other counsel, whether oral or in writing. 
  6. We will base our discovery objections on a good faith belief in their merit and will not object solely for the purpose of withholding or delaying the disclosure of relevant information. We will make good faith efforts to resolve discovery objections informally without resort to the court. We will not use any form of discovery, the scheduling of discovery, or any other part of the discovery process as a means of harassing opposing counsel or the opposing parties or as a means of delaying the timely, efficient and cost- effective resolution of a case. 

 

  1. We will extend courtesy to other counsel in scheduling dates for depositions, hearings, and trials as well as granting reasonable requests for extensions of time and continuances. 
  2. We will not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be appropriate in the presence of a Judge.
  3. We will make objections during a trial or hearing only for legitimate and good faith reasons. 
  4. Unless specifically permitted or invited by the court, we will not send copies of correspondence between counsel to the court. 
  5. We will refrain from employing the time or manner of serving papers to disadvantage or embarrass the party receiving those pa

 

The following is the dictionary definition of conduct unbecoming a professional:

Conduct on the part of a certified professional that is contrary to the interests of the public served by that professional, or which harms the standing of the profession in the eyes of the public.

Certified professionals, such as lawyers, judges, engineers, social workers, doctors and nurses and chartered accountants, often have to abide by a catch-all phrase in their professional conduct handbooks which prohibits them from not only certain and specified conduct, but also conduct unbecoming a lawyer or a chartered accountant generally.

For lawyers and judges, some jurisdictions, such as England, prefer the term conduct unbefitting a solicitor or unbefitting conduct.

In other jurisdictions, lawyers are held to a prohibition against any conduct that either brings the justice system or their profession into disrepute or conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The American Bar Association’s Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct, Rule 8.4:

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

The general aim of the prohibition is to contain rude or disparaging conduct by lawyers towards other lawyers, witnesses or others.

However, the prohibition is not contained to the professional dealings of a lawyer (Moore). Again, the ABA Lawyers’ Manual:

“The prohibition … also reaches conduct that is uncivil, undignified or unprofessional, regardless of whether it is directly connected to a legal proceeding.”

For the past year, I have written about unimaginable acts of violence, of conduct by random people that affects all of us in a negative way.  I have written about examples of intolerance.  I have written about committing random acts of kindness, tolerance and acceptance.  I have urged all of us to make a difference in the lives of others, even if it is one person at a time.

I urge all of us to think before we act, keep our private issues out of our practice of the law, and consider that our conduct sets an example not only for our non-legal community, but our young, upcoming attorneys.  I think every one of us have heard complaints about the legal profession, either from our clients, acquaintances, friends and family and we cringe because the bad behavior is not representative of most of us.  Most of us try to do our best on a day to day basis.  Most of us treat each other with civility, courtesy and professionalism.  Many of us are friends and socialize after hours.  I am so proud of our community when I hear from others that we have a tight knit community and that they wish their legal community was the same.

When I was a new attorney, the so called “dog and pony” show was still in practice and thought to be desirable.   That’s not the case as much anymore.  Aggression cannot and will not replace good lawyering, and simple assertion goes a long way when we want to make a point.

I urge everyone to practice law, keeping the five “C”s in mind, competence, civility, compassion, candor and courage.  I urge our new attorneys to look up the information on the State Bar of California website, and review the rules and guidelines.  I urge everyone to consider that we are an example to everyone around us, in big things and small, and to set the best example possible under every circumstance.

Let’s make a difference.

Thank you,

 

Diane M. Hartog

WSBCBA President