Voluntary Standards for Civility

D.C. Bar Voluntary Standards of Civility: Lawyers’ Duties to the Court

Principles Particularly Applicable to Litigation

Lawyers' Duties to the Court

  1. We recognize that the public's perception of our system of justice is influenced by the relationship between lawyers and judges, and that judges perform a symbolic role. At the same time, lawyers have the right and, at times, the duty to be critical of judges and their rulings. Thus, in all communications with the court, we will speak and write civilly. In expressing criticism of the court, we shall seek to use language that minimizes disrespect for courts and the system of justice.
  2. We will not engage in conduct that offends the dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings, brings disorder or disruption to the courtroom, or undermines the image of the legal profession.
  3. We will advise clients and witnesses to act civilly and respectfully toward the court, educate them about proper courtroom decorum, and, to the best of our ability, prevent them from creating disorder or disruption in the courtroom.
  4. We will not knowingly misrepresent, mischaracterize, misquote, or miscite facts or authorities.
  5. We will not degrade the intelligence, ethics, morals, integrity or personal behavior of others, unless such matters are legitimately at issue in the proceeding.
  6. We will act and speak civilly and respectfully to the judge's staff, the courtroom staff, and other court personnel with an awareness that they, too, are an integral part of the judicial system. We will also advise clients and witnesses to act civilly and respectfully toward these participants in the legal process.
  7. We recognize that judicial resources are scarce, that court dockets are crowded, and that justice is undermined when cases are delayed and/or disputes remain unresolved. Therefore, we will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures on the court and court staff inherent in their efforts to administer justice.
  8. We recognize that tardiness and neglect show disrespect to the court and the judicial system. Therefore, we will be punctual and prepared for all court appearances so that all hearings, conferences, and trials may commence on time and proceed efficiently. We will also educate clients and witnesses concerning the need to be punctual and prepared. If delayed, we will promptly notify the court and counsel, if at all possible.
  9. Before dates for hearings or trials are set, or, if that is not feasible, immediately after such a date has been set, we will attempt to verify the availability of necessary participants and witnesses so we can promptly notify the court of any likely problems.
  10. We will avoid ex parte communications with the court, including the judge's staff, on pending matters in person (whether in social, professional, or other contexts), by telephone, and in letters and other forms of written communication, unless such communications relate solely to scheduling or other non-substantive administrative matters, or are made with the consent of all parties, or are otherwise expressly authorized by law or court rule.