Civility in the Legal Profession

The Wall Street Journal has a front page article today about programs designed to promote civility in the legal profession. Much has been written on these pages and elsewhere about this perennial lament about lawyers behaving badly. Many states, including Delaware, have civility codes and principles of professionalism that are both aspirational and prescriptive. Instead of adding to the volumes filled with that topic, we refer in this post to a less discussed aspect of normative behavior in the legal profession: the judiciary’s role.

The Delaware Court on the Judiciary recently issued an opinion in which it criticized a judge for not following the rules that apply to judges. This opinion from the special court in Delaware that reviews and decides complaints against judges, imposed the penalty of a “public censure” (implemented by means of the decision linked above), and found that the trial judge involved had violated the Delaware Code of Judicial Conduct and internal administrative rules applicable to Delaware judges, that require Delaware judges to decide and process cases before them on a prompt basis, and to submit information included in reports to the Chief Justice for cases that are more than 90 days old (based on the date the case is submitted for decision). The Delaware judiciary is well-known for handling cases more expeditiously than most other states, but it is informative to know that there is a system in place that determines whether judges are complying with the particular standards and rules that apply to them.