Legal Ethics

Top SC Court Reminds Lawyers to Mind Their Manners, Raps Practitioner for Email re Opponent's Child

Representing clients in “an emotional and heated domestic dispute” apparently pushed three South Carolina lawyers into a dispute of their own that has now resulted in a general “letter of caution” to all attorneys from the state’s highest court.

Reminding the state’s lawyers to mind their manners, the supreme court also issued a private reprimand to the unidentified attorney who sent an email resulting in the ethics complaint at bar. The court’s letter of caution includes much of the email text, in which the respondent lawyer—who represented the mother in the domestic incident—claims that opposing counsel’s daughter at some point purchased illegal drugs in a high-crime area.

The teen admittedly had no connection to the domestic representation, however, and the offending email was prompted, the respondent claimed, by patronizing communications from opposing counsel in which the other lawyer, among other things, supposedly said the respondent, as a nonparent, could not appropriately advise his client. However, the respondent apologized, which the supreme court said provided considerable mitigation for his conduct.

The email was brought to the court’s attention by the spouse of the respondent’s opposing counsel.

“We take this opportunity to address what we see as a growing problem among the bar, namely the manner in which attorneys treat one another in oral and written communication,” the letter from the court states. “We are concerned with the increasing complaints of incivility in the bar. We believe United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s words elucidate a lawyer’s duty: ‘More civility and greater professionalism can only enhance the pleasure lawyers find in practice, increase the effectiveness of our system of justice, and improve the public’s perception of lawyers.’ “

Hat tip: Legal Profession Blog.

Related coverage: “Suspended for Incivility: Lawyer’s Indignant Letter Questioned Town Manager’s Soul”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.