Focus on Ethics & Civility

JurisdictionUtah,United States
CitationVol. 33 No. 3 Pg. 44
Publication year2020
Focus on Ethics & Civility
Vol. 33 No. 3 Pg. 44
Utah Bar Journal
June, 2020

May, 2020

Civility in a Time of Uncertainty

By Keith A. Call

As I write this from my home study on March 23, 2020, our community and world are in the midst of turmoil caused by the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Home offices have sprung up everywhere as we are being encouraged to stay home and avoid gatherings of more than ten people. Hearings, depositions, and mediations are being canceled. Court operations are being scaled back to only the most essential functions. We have all seen store shelves emptied of food and supplies, especially toilet paper, as people prepare to hunker down. And before we had any opportunity to get used to any of these ideas, people along the Wasatch Front were rattled by a moderately-sized earthquake.

It is an experience unprecedented in our lifetimes. As a community, there is a sense that we all hope things quickly improve, but we fear it may be worse before it gets better. By the time this article is published in early May, there is little doubt that things will have changed dramatically, either for better or worse, from what they are at the time of this writing.

What do the Utah Standards of Professionalism and Civility teach us for times like this? I dusted off a copy, read through it, and here are a few ideas.

Preamble and Standard No. 1 – Be Nice and Watch Out for Each Other

The Preamble includes the following (emphasis added):

A lawyer’s conduct should be characterized by personal courtesy and professional integrity in the fullest sense of all those terms. In fulfilling a duty to represent a client vigorously as lawyers, we must 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. We must remain committed to the rule of law as the foundation for a just and peaceful society.…

Lawyers should exhibit courtesy, candor and cooperation in dealing with the public and participating in the legal system.

Utah Jud. Admin. Rule 14-301.

Standard No. 1 teaches that we should “treat all other counsel, parties, judges, witnesses, and other participants in all proceedings in a courteous and dignified manner.” Id.

In the context of our day, the words “personal courtesy and professional integrity in the fullest sense of those terms” suggest to me that we should all pause for a moment, look...

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