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IBA: A little professional humor

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As part of its ongoing efforts to promote professionalism, the Professionalism Committee of the Indianapolis Bar Association has borrowed from the format of a popular comedian to portray everyday scenarios that may illustrate situations in which lawyers may fall short of each of the committee’s five Standards of Professionalism. We hope that this presentation will remind IndyBar members of the standards, perhaps provide a little entertainment, and – to the extent any of the examples resonate with your own experience – help to maintain and promote our commitment to these standards.

Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if …

I Commitment

We are committed to practicing law in a manner that maintains and fosters public confidence in our profession, faithfully serves our clients, and fulfills our responsibilities to the legal system.

Our commitment to fostering public confidence in our profession and fulfilling our responsibilities to the legal system requires us to avoid denigrating other lawyers, judges and the courts – the very people and institutions that comprise our profession and our legal system. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if, upon receiving an unfavorable ruling, you say things such as:

“The judge obviously did not read our papers or listen to us.”

“The judge took the easy way out.”

“The judge did not understand the issues.”

“The opposing counsel should not have … (however you may complete this sentence, the simple act of criticizing other lawyers often undermines public confidence in our profession).

II Character

We will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Rules of Professional Conduct and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play.

Our commitment to adhering to the Rules of Professional Conduct requires us to be familiar with those rules, and our commitment to a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play requires us to view opposing counsel with respect. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if you:

Often find yourself having “no idea” of what the Rules of Professional Conduct actually provide with respect to a situation confronting you.

View the Rules of Professional Conduct as a hindrance to be grudgingly observed, rather than enthusiastically promoted.

III Competence

We will conduct ourselves to assure the just, economical and efficient resolution of every matter entrusted to us consistent with thoroughness and professional preparation.

Our commitment to the economical and efficient resolution of matters requires us to refrain from unnecessarily driving up litigation expenses or unnecessarily delaying resolution of disputes. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if you make statements such as:

“I don’t expect to win this motion but we should file it just to make them spend some money on the litigation.”

“I don’t expect to win this motion but we need to show the client that we are doing something.”

“I didn’t bother to review the file before the hearing because …”

IV Courtesy

We will at all times act with dignity, civility, decency and courtesy in all professional activities and refrain from rude, disruptive, obstructive and abusive behavior.

Our commitment to civility requires that we display no less courtesy in our professional lives than we do to friends, family or even complete strangers in our personal lives. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if:

You speak to opposing counsel in a manner that you would not use to speak to someone standing in front of you at a check-out line of a grocery store.

You describe an inability to reach agreement on an issue as a some type of character flaw on the part of opposing counsel, rather than “a disputed issue for the court to decide.”

You cannot recall the last time you apologized to opposing counsel, co-counsel, a client, or a court for anything at all.

You fail to alert opposing counsel before sending a harsh letter of the underlying problem that necessitates the harsh tone.

You tell the receptionist to “put it in voice mail” more often than you say “put it through.”

There are lawyers in town that avoid you.

There are lawyers in town that you avoid.

There are either (i) lawyers in town that avoid you; or (ii) lawyers in town that you avoid but (iii) you have not reached out to them to repair the relationship.

V Community Involvement

We recognize that the practice is a learned profession to be conducted with dignity, integrity and honor dedicated to the service of clients and public good.

Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if:

All your pro bono cases turned out that way unexpectedly.

You believe that community involvement is a really good idea but leave it to someone else to handle.•

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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