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Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

September 2009, vol. 15, no. 1

Win with civility

August was National Win With Civility Month, an appropriate observance for Illinois attorneys. Since 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court has focused on civility in the legal profession. In that year, the court established the Illinois Commission on Professionalism, making Illinois one of only 14 states that have a formal body working to promote professionalism and civility.

Among the stated objectives of the Commission: to improve civility between and among lawyers and their clients and judges. While MCLE promotes the Commission’s objectives, sometimes the best lessons are learned by mistakes. One such act of teaching behavior is the example of Indiana attorney Vincent M. Campiti, who recently received a public reprimand.

In a published order, the Indiana Supreme Court reviewed stipulated facts and approved agreed disciplinary action. See, In the Matter of: Vincent M. Campiti, Supreme Court Cause No. 71S00-0807-DI-400. <http://www.in.gov/judiciary/orders/hearing-officers/2008/71s00-0807-di-400.pdf>. Campiti represented the father at a child support modification hearing. During the course of that representation, he made “repeated disparaging references to the facts that the mother was not a U.S. citizen and was receiving legal services at no charge.” Neither the mother’s immigration status nor her fee arrangement with her attorney was relevant to the support modification hearing.

The Indiana Supreme court Disciplinary Commission and Campiti agreed that his behavior violated the Indiana Professional conduct Rules. Specifically, Rule 4.4(a) prescribes:

Rule 4.4. Respect for Rights of Third Persons

(a) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.

. . . .

And Rule 8.4 (g) admonishes:

Rule 8.4. Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

. . . .

(g) engage in conduct, in a professional capacity, manifesting, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, or similar factors. Legitimate advocacy respecting the foregoing factors does not violate this subsection. A trial judge’s finding that preemptory challenges were exercised on a discriminatory basis does not alone establish a violation of this Rule.

The parties agreed that the remarks were made in open court and that the mother felt that Campiti discriminated against her on the basis of her non-citizen status. They further acknowledged that Campiti had no prior disciplinary record and cooperated with the Commission. In addition, Campiti regretted “his emotional involvement in the case and has made efforts to change his advocacy style.” Moreover, he apologized to the grievant.

Weighing the aggravating and mitigating facts, the parties stipulated that the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand, and the Indiana Supreme Court agreed.

So how does this decision affect Illinois attorneys? First, given Illinois demographics, it is no stretch of the imagination that similar behavior could occur in Illinois courts with Illinois attorneys and litigants and give rise to similar disciplinary complaints. Second, the relevant Supreme Court of Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct are virtually identical to those of Indiana. Rule 4.4 provides:

RULE 4.4. Respect for Rights of Third Persons

In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.

Rule 8.4 (a)(5) cautions:

RULE 8.4. Misconduct

(a) A lawyer shall not:

. . . .

(5) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. In relation thereto, a lawyer shall not engage in adverse discriminatory treatment of litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others, based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. This subsection does not preclude legitimate advocacy when these or similar factors are issues in the proceeding[.]

. . . .

Moreover, Rule 3.3 (a)(9) admonishes:

RULE 3.3. Conduct Before a Tribunal

(a) In appearing in a professional capacity before a tribunal, a lawyer shall not:

. . . .

(9) intentionally degrade a witness or other person by stating or alluding to personal facts concerning that person which are not relevant to the case[.]

. . . .

Even after January 1, 2010, when the new Rules of Professional Conduct take effect, lawyers’ professional responsibilities remain the same. New Rule 4.4 (a) replaces present Rule 4.4 verbatim. New Rule 8.4 (d) cautions:

RULE 8.4: MISCONDUCT

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

. . . .

(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

. . . .

Additionally, new Rule 3.4 (e) specifies

RULE 3.4: FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL

A lawyer shall not:

. . . .

(e) in trial, allude to any matter that the lawyer does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by admissible evidence, assert personal knowledge of facts in issue except when testifying as a witness, or state a personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, the credibility of a witness, the culpability of a civil litigant or the guilt or innocence of an accused[.]

. . . .

While the calendar marked August as National Win With Civility Month, professional responsibilities and rules of professional conduct in Illinois require the observance of Illinois attorneys all year long. ■


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