Raise Your Right Hand and Swear to Be Civil: Defining Civility as an Obligation of Professional Responsibility

Donald E. Campbell, Raise Your Right Hand and Swear to Be Civil: Defining Civility as an Obligation of Professional Responsibility, 47 Gonz. L. Rev. 99 (2011)


The need to reclaim “civility” in the practice of law has become a rallying cry in the profession. Lack of civility has been blamed on everything from an increase in the cost of litigation to the cause of the public’s lost faith in the legal profession. Further, courts are increasingly willing to sanction a lawyer solely for “uncivil” conduct. This article examines the puzzle of civility by addressing two fundamental questions. First, what are the obligations of civility? This question is answered using content analysis to analyze civility codes adopted by thirty-two state bar associations. From this analysis ten core tenets of civility are identified which are common across all jurisdictions. The second question addresses how civility is distinct from other professional obligations, such as legal ethics and professionalism. Examining the history and development of these professional obligations, this paper demonstrates that civility is distinct and should be treated as a unique obligation of professional responsibility.

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