Standards for Professional Conduct
A lawyer’s conduct should be characterized at all times by personal courtesy and professional integrity in the fullest sense of those terms. In fulfilling our duty to represent a client vigorously as lawyers, we will be mindful of our obligations to the administration of justice, which is a truth-seeking process designed to resolve human and societal problems in a rational, peaceful and efficient manner.
A judge’s conduct should be characterized at all times by courtesy and patience toward all participants. As judges we owe to all participants in a legal proceeding respect, diligence, punctuality and protection against unjust and improper criticism or attack.
Conduct that may be characterized as uncivil, abrasive, abusive, hostile or obstructive impedes the fundamental goal of resolving disputes rationally, peacefully and efficiently. Such conduct tends to delay and often to deny justice.
The following standards are designed to encourage us, judges and lawyers, to meet our obligations to each other, to litigants and to the system of justice, and thereby achieve the twin goals of civility and professionalism, both of which are hallmarks of a learned profession dedicated to public service.
We expect judges and lawyers will make a mutual and firm commitment to these standards. Voluntary adherence is expected as part of a commitment by all participants to improve the administration of justice throughout the state.
Lawyers are alerted to the fact that, while the standards refer generally to matters which are in court, the same standards also apply to professional conduct in all phases of the practice of law.
These standards shall not be used as a basis for litigation or for sanctions or penalties. Nothing in these standards supersedes or detracts from existing disciplinary codes or alters existing standards of conduct against which lawyer negligence may be determined.
These standards should be reviewed and followed by all judges and lawyers in the state. Copies may be made available to clients to reinforce our obligation to maintain and foster these standards.
Lawyer’s Duties to Other Counsel
- 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 not, even when called upon by a client to do so, abuse or indulge in offensive conduct directed to other counsel, parties or witnesses. We will abstain from disparaging remarks or acrimony toward other counsel, parties or witnesses. We will treat adverse witnesses and parties with fair consideration.
- We will not encourage or knowingly authorize any person under our control to engage in conduct that would be improper if we were to engage in such conduct.
- We will not, absent good cause, attribute bad motives or improper conduct to other counsel or bring the profession into disrepute by unfounded accusations of impropriety.
- We will not seek court sanctions without first conducting a reasonable investigation and unless fully justified by the circumstances and necessary to protect our client’s lawful interests.
- We will cooperate in the transfer of files, wills, and other documents to another attorney when requested to do so, orally or in writing, by a person authorized to make that request. We will provide reasonable assistance in organizing and explaining items transferred, recognizing that such cooperation assists the client in receiving competent legal representation.
- We will adhere to all express promises and to agreements with other counsel, whether oral or in writing, and will adhere in good faith to all agreements implied by the circumstances or local customs.
- We will promptly acknowledge the receipt of contacts from other attorneys, whether those contacts are by telephone or in writing, and we will make an appropriate response to the subject matter of the contact as soon as reasonably possible.
- When we reach an oral understanding on a proposed agreement or a stipulation and decide to commit it to writing, the drafter will endeavor in good faith to state the oral understanding accurately and completely. The drafter will provide the opportunity for review of the writing to other counsel. As drafts are exchanged between or among counsel, changes from prior drafts will be identified in the draft or otherwise explicitly brought to the attention of other counsel. We will not include in a draft matters to which there has been no agreement without explicitly advising other counsel in writing of the addition.
- We will endeavor to confer early with other counsel to assess settlement possibilities. We will not falsely hold out the possibility of settlement as a means to adjourn discovery or to delay trial.
- In civil actions, we will stipulate to relevant matters if they are undisputed and if no good faith advocacy basis exists for not stipulating.
- We will not use any form of discovery or discovery scheduling as a means of harassment.
- We will make good faith effort to resolve by agreement our objections to matters contained in pleadings and discovery requests and objections.
- We will not time the filing or service of motions or pleadings in any way that unfairly limits another party’s opportunity to respond.
- We will not request an extension of time solely for the purpose of unjustified delay or to obtain a tactical advantage.
- We will consult other counsel regarding scheduling matters in a good faith effort to avoid scheduling conflicts.
- We will endeavor to accommodate previously scheduled dates for hearings, depositions, meetings, conferences, vacations, seminars or other functions that produce good faith calendar conflicts on the part of other counsel. If we have been given an accommodation because of a calendar conflict, we will notify those who have accommodated us as soon as the conflict has been removed.
- We will 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. Early notice avoids unnecessary travel and expense of counsel and may enable the court to use the previously reserved time for other matters.
- We will agree to reasonable requests for extensions of time and for waiver of procedural formalities, provided our clients’ legitimate rights will not be materially or adversely affected.
- We will not cause any default or dismissal to be entered without first notifying opposing counsel, when we know his or her identity.
- We will take depositions only when actually needed to ascertain facts or information or to perpetuate testimony. We will not take depositions for the purposes of harassment or to increase litigation expenses.
- We will not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be appropriate in the presence of a judge.
- We will not obstruct questioning during a deposition or object to deposition questions unless necessary under the applicable rules to preserve an objection or privilege for resolution by the court.
- During depositions we will ask only those questions we reasonably believe are necessary for the prosecution or defense of an action.
- We will carefully craft document production requests so they are limited to those documents we reasonably believe are necessary for the prosecution or defense of an action. We will not design production requests to place an undue burden or expense on a party.
- We will respond to document requests reasonably and not strain to interpret the request in an artificially restrictive manner to avoid disclosure of relevant and nonprivileged documents. We will not produce documents in a manner designed to hide or obscure the existence of particular documents.
- We will carefully craft interrogatories so they are limited to those matters we reasonably believe are necessary for the prosecution or defense of an action, and we will not design them to place an undue burden or expense on a party.
- We will respond to interrogatories reasonably and will not strain to interpret them in an artificially restrictive manner to avoid disclosure of relevant and nonprivileged information.
- 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.
- When a draft order is to be prepared by counsel to reflect a court ruling, we will draft an order that accurately and completely reflects the court’s ruling. We will promptly prepare and submit a proposed order to other counsel and attempt to reconcile any differences before the draft order is presented to the court.
- We will 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.
- Unless specifically permitted or invited by the court, we will not send copies of correspondence between counsel to the court.
Lawyers’ Duties to the Court
- We will speak and write civilly and respectfully in all communications with the court.
- We will be punctual and prepared for all court appearances so that all hearings, conferences and trials may commence on time; if delayed, we will notify the court and counsel, if possible.
- We will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures on the court and court staff inherent in their efforts to administer justice.
- We will not engage in any conduct that brings disorder or disruption to the courtroom. We will advise our clients and witnesses appearing in court of the proper conduct expected and required there and, to the best of our ability, prevent our clients and witnesses from creating disorder or disruption.
- We will not knowingly misrepresent, mischaracterize, misquote or miscite facts or authorities in any oral or written communication to the court.
- We will not write letters to the court in connection with a pending action, unless invited or permitted by the court.
- Before dates for hearings or trials are set, or if that is not feasible, immediately after such date has been set, we will attempt to verify the availability of necessary participants and witnesses so we can promptly notify the court of any likely problems.
- We will act and speak civilly to court attendants, clerks, court reporters, secretaries and law clerks with an awareness that they too, are an integral part of the judicial system.
Courts’ Duties to Lawyers
- We will be courteous, respectful and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses. We will maintain control of the proceedings, recognizing that judges have both the obligation and the authority to insure that all litigation proceedings are conducted in a civil manner.
- We will not employ hostile, demeaning or humiliating words in opinions or in written or oral communications with lawyers, parties or witnesses.
- We will be punctual in convening all hearings, meetings and conferences; if delayed, we will notify counsel, if possible.
- In scheduling all hearings, meetings and conferences we will be considerate of time schedules of lawyers, parties and witnesses.
- We will make all reasonable efforts to decide promptly all matters presented to us for decision.
- We will give the issues in controversy deliberate, impartial and studied analysis and consideration.
- While endeavoring to resolve disputes efficiently, we will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures imposed on lawyers by the exigencies of litigation practice.
- We recognize that a lawyer has a right and a duty to present a cause fully and properly, and that a litigant has a right to a fair and impartial hearing. Within the practical limits of time, we will allow lawyers to present proper arguments and to make a complete and accurate record.
- We will not impugn the integrity or professionalism of any lawyer on the basis
- of the clients whom or the causes which a lawyer represents.
- We will do our best to insure that court personnel act civilly toward lawyers, parties and witnesses.
- We will not adopt procedures that needlessly increase litigation expense.
- We will bring to lawyers’ attention uncivil conduct which we observe.
Judges’ Duties to Each Other
- We will be courteous, respectful and civil in opinions, ever mindful that a position articulated by another judge is the result of that judge’s earnest effort to interpret the law and the facts correctly.
- In all written and oral communications, we will abstain from disparaging personal remarks or criticisms, or sarcastic or demeaning comments about another judge.
- We will endeavor to work with other judges in an effort to foster a spirit of cooperation in our mutual goal of enhancing the administration of justice.
- With the exception of rule 6 and rule 8 of the lawyers’ duties to other counsel, the preamble and remaining rules are taken from the final report of the committee on civility of the seventh federal judicial circuit.