Professionalism column

What should you do if opposing counsel acts inappropriately?

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  • | 12:00 p.m. September 29, 2003
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Have you litigated against a lawyer who played unfairly, acted repeatedly and unnecessarily obnoxious, or was impolite, rude, or uncivil with you or your client? And after the fact, you walked away thinking, what a jerk — I can’t believe he did that. Then by the time you got back to the office to meet many deadlines, you ended up letting the matter slide. Do you think that person will ever change if nobody calls him on it? Will that attorney have any incentive to stop behaving that way, adding fuel to the public’s negative perception of lawyers in general?

We need to do everything we can in order to preserve the level of professionalism, dignity and respect that our legal community has historically been known for. One giant step toward preserving that standard would be for attorneys (and judges) to remember to make use of the Professional Review Committee whenever challenged by unprofessional counsel. The committee is made up of a chairman and five other appointed members that include a criminal law attorney, a civil litigation attorney, a transactional lawyer, a family law attorney and a government attorney.

The committee reviews the matter

and resolves it either informally by

a telephone consultation or in person with the lawyer who is the subject of the referral or formally, in which case the offending lawyer is furnished with a copy of the referral and is provided with an opportunity to submit a written response. In matters involving a more serious violation, both parties are given an opportunity to present their positions at a formal hearing. In such a case, the committee issues a decision and may refer the offending lawyer to the Jacksonville Bar Association’s Mentorship

Program or perhaps to The Florida Bar for assistance with drug, alcohol or emotional issues.

The process is entirely educational and constructive. It is non-punitive and does not result in the imposition of sanctions or discipline. It simply provides guidance for acceptable practice in the Jacksonville area.

To make a referral for consideration and resolution by the Professional Review Committee, you should contact Diane Gill at the Bar office and ask for a referral form. A written referral form describing the conduct in question is kept confidential and cannot be disclosed to anyone except the committee members, the referring attorney and the responding attorney. It is important for the Bench and Bar to use this

program to preserve professionalism in our community.

If you would like to write an article

about an ethical or professionalism

experience that others in the Bar may learn from, please contact Caroline Emery, Chair of

the Professionalism Column, at

[email protected]