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DTCI: Note from the defense - Stop the 'unnecessary roughness'

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dtci-mortimer-reneeI was told that I had to write an article when I became a member of the board of directors of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. When I asked what the topic was to be, I was told, “Anything you want!” OK. Now what? What do I want to say to my colleagues in Indiana? Should I write a case note? No. There are too many of those already out there. Should I write a perspective from a lawyer from “the Region?” No.

We need to annihilate those boundaries, not enforce them. What about an article on electronic discovery or the Medicare/Medicaid issues? No. We have all either given those lectures or attended them over and over again. I was at a loss. What do I want to say to everyone out there?

As I was pondering this daunting task, I was buzzed by our receptionist. “Prominent plaintiff lawyer” was on the phone for me. (I have removed his name to protect him from jabs from his colleagues for being too nice to a defense lawyer.) I wondered why he was calling me, as we don’t currently have a case together. It turns out that he had a case with one of my partners and just thought he would call me to see how I was doing, as we had not spoken in a while. We had a nice chat and hung up. I thought how nice that call was – and how rare. It then hit me that I had found what I wanted to say to all of you.

While I am sure this writing could be deemed just another one that promotes civility, and while I am sure that there is a long list of ethical rules that promote that, too, I cite none here. I simply say this: Stop the (to use a football phrase) “unnecessary roughness.” I am hereby throwing a “flag on the play.”

I am definitely not saying to stop being fierce advocates for our clients. We all lose sleep at night, thinking about our cases, making sure that we are doing the best we can for our clients. (I wish the sleeplessness would end, but after 21 years of the practice of law, I know it won’t.) Unfortunately, some of us on both sides of the “v.” are also lawyers who cannot seem to handle a case without making other counsel on the case simply miserable. These lawyers seem to think that is part of their duty to their clients. I disagree.

Being disrespectful to the court or counsel does not help your case. Nor do endless multipage letters that voice baseless objections or accusations. I certainly know that my clients won’t pay for this type of activity and want me to devote my time to the pertinent issues of the case. Yes, it is part of the job to argue and to advocate, but do not do it at the expense of professional courtesy.

I am encouraged by my “prominent plaintiff lawyer” colleague. I hope this trend continues. Our parents told us to treat others as we would like to be treated, so I hereby remind you all of that, without citing to any legal authority. I say our jobs are hard enough. Please just do the right thing and don’t add unneeded roughness to our lives and yours under the cloak of advocacy. It will make all of our professional lives much better.

There is my message. Have a good day.•

Ms. Mortimer is a member of the DTCI Board of Directors and is a partner in the Schererville office of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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