South Florida’s Judicial Circuits Adopt Uniform Standards of Professional Courtesy and Civility
A Joint Project of 44 South Florida
Voluntary Bar Associations to Promote Lawyer Civility
Adam Rabin, 561-659-7878
Anna Marie Hernandez, 305-789-7467
Co-Chairs of the South Florida Joint Civility Project
For Immediate Release:
For the first time in South Florida history, the Eleventh, Fifteenth, Seventeenth and Nineteenth Judicial Circuits have adopted uniform Standards of Professional Courtesy and Civility (the “Standards”). With the recent adoption of the Standards in the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, all four circuits in South Florida have issued administrative orders adopting the Standards that now will apply and be enforced in each respective circuit.
In June 2013, Justice R. Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion, entitled In re: Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints, which required each of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits to create a local professionalism panel. The opinion allowed the chief judge in each circuit to define the panel’s governing standards and procedures and to hear professionalism grievances at ad hoc hearings.
With the adoption of the Standards across South Florida’s four circuits, each local professionalism panel now will be able to apply and enforce the same Standards. This means that all attorneys across the region will, for the first time, be held to the same Standards regardless of which circuit or county in which the attorney maintains an office or is appearing in a case.
The effort to have all four South Circuits adopt uniform Standards was a process that took two years and was led by the South Florida Joint Civility Project (the “Project”), known for its “Got Civility?” theme.
When asked about the significance of having all four circuits adopt uniform Standards, Project co-chair and past president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, Adam Rabin, stated “The adoption of uniform Standards of Professional Courtesy and Civility throughout our region is the crowning achievement of our Project. Judges and lawyers in South Florida now will have the tools through the Standards and local professionalism panels to hold all lawyers accountable for unprofessional and uncivil behavior.” Project co-chair and current president of the Cuban American Bar Association, Anna Marie Hernandez, added “Our joint project started out four years ago by recruiting 44 voluntary bars to join forces in promoting the amended oath of attorney admission’s pledge of lawyer civility.
Four years later, we are exceptionally proud to assist South Florida’s courts in adopting procedures that will help improve lawyer civility and create a more uniform baseline of professional lawyer behavior across all South Florida circuits.”
The uniform Standards set forth specific guidelines for professional courtesy on a host of issues that often fall outside The Florida Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct, but nonetheless are expected in practice. The Standards include provisions on the obligation to make a reasonable attempt to clear deposition and hearing dates with opposing counsel before setting them, providing copies of all materials to opposing counsel that are submitted to the Court, treating judicial staff civilly and with respect, and not making legal or factual arguments in correspondence to the Court, among others.
The South Florida Joint Civility Project also expressed its gratitude to the chief judges who issued the administrative orders adopting the Standards, including Chief Judge Bertila Soto (Eleventh Circuit), Chief Judge Jeffrey Colbath (Fifteenth Circuit), Chief Judge Peter Weinstein (Seventeenth Circuit), and Chief Judge Elizabeth Metzger (Nineteenth Circuit). Likewise, the Project credited the local professionalism panel chairs in each circuit for helping draft the administrative orders that adopted the Standards.
For a copy of each circuit’s administrative order adopting the Standards, see the web links below: