HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY STANDARDS OF PROFESSIONAL COURTESY
The effective administration of justice requires the interactions of many professions and disciplines, but none is more critical than the role of the lawyer. In fulfilling that role, a lawyer performs many tasks; few of which are easy; most of which are exacting. In the final analysis, a lawyer’s duty is always to the client. But in striving to fulfill that duty, a lawyer must be ever conscious of his broader duty to the judicial system that serves both attorney and client.
To the judiciary, a lawyer owes candor, diligence and utmost respect. To the administration of justice, a lawyer unquestionably owes the fundamental duties of personal dignity and professional integrity. Coupled with those duties, however, is a lawyer’s duty of courtesy and cooperation with fellow professionals for the efficient administration of our systems of justice and the respect of the public it serves.
In furtherance of these fundamental concepts, in recognition that they must be applied in a manner consistent with the interests of one’s client and the Code of Professional Conduct, and in keeping with the long tradition of professionalism among and between members of this Bar Association, the following Standards of Professional Courtesy are hereby adopted. Although we do not expect every lawyer will agree with every guideline, these standards reflect our best effort at encouraging decency and courtesy in our professional lives without intruding unreasonably on each lawyer’s choice of style or tactics.
A. SCHEDULING, CONTINUANCES, AND EXTENSIONS OF TIME.
Scheduling and Continuances
1. Attorneys are encouraged to communicate with opposing counsel prior to scheduling depositions, hearings and other proceedings, so as to schedule them at times that are mutually convenient for all interested persons. If an attorney does not communicate with opposing counsel prior to scheduling a deposition or hearing, he should be willing to re-schedule that deposition or hearing if the time selected is inconvenient for opposing counsel.
2. Upon receiving an inquiry concerning a proposed time for a hearing, deposition, meeting, or other proceeding, a lawyer should promptly agree to the proposal or offer a counter suggestion.
3. A lawyer should call potential scheduling conflicts or problems to the attention of those affected, including the court or tribunal, as soon as they become apparent to the lawyer.
4. Attorneys should cooperate with each other when conflicts and calendar changes are necessary and requested.
5. Counsel should never request a calendar change or misrepresent a conflict in order to obtain and advantage or delay. However, in the practice of law, emergencies affecting our families or our professional commitments will arise which conflicts and make requests inevitable. We should be cooperative with each other whenever possible in agreeing to calendar changes, and should make such requests of other counsel only when absolutely necessary.
6. Attorneys should endeavor to provide opposing counsel, parties, witnesses, and other affected persons, sufficient notice of depositions, hearing and other proceedings, except upon agreement of counsel, in an emergency, or in other circumstances compelling more expedited scheduling.
7. When scheduling hearings and other adjudicative proceedings, a lawyer should request an amount of time that is truly calculated to permit full and fair presentation of the matter to be adjudicated and to permit equal response by the lawyer’s adversary.
8. A lawyer should accede to all reasonable requests for scheduling, rescheduling, cancellations, extensions, and postponements that do not prejudice the client’s opportunity for full, fair and prompt consideration and adjudication of the client’s claim or defense.
9. First requests for reasonable extensions of time to respond to litigation deadlines, whether relating to pleadings, discovery or motions, should ordinarily be granted between counsels as a matter of courtesy unless time is of the essence.
10. After a first extension, any additional requests for time should be dealt with by balancing the need for expedition against the deference one should ordinarily give to an opponent’s schedule of professional and personal engagements, the reasonableness of the length of extension requested, the opponent’s willingness to grant reciprocal extensions, the time actually needed for the task, and whether it is likely a court would grant the extension if asked to do so.
11. A lawyer should advise clients against the strategy of granting no time extensions for the sake of appearing “tough.”
12. A lawyer should not seek extensions or continuances or refuse to grant them for the purpose of harassment or prolonging litigation.
13. A lawyer should not attach to extensions unfair and extraneous conditions. A lawyer is entitled to impose conditions such as preserving rights that an extension might jeopardize or seeking reciprocal scheduling concessions. A lawyer should not, by granting extensions, seek to preclude an opponent’s substantive rights, such as his or her right to move against a complaint.
14. A lawyer should not request rescheduling, cancellations, extensions, or postponements without legitimate reasons and never solely for the purpose of delay or obtaining unfair advantage.
B. SERVICE OF PAPERS.
1. The timing and manner of services should not be used to the disadvantage of the party receiving the papers.
2. Papers and memoranda of law should not be served so close to a court appearance so as to inhibit the ability of opposing counsel to prepare for that appearance or, where permitted by law, to respond to the papers.
3. Papers should not be served in order to take advantage of opponent’s known absence from the office or at a time or in a manner designed to inconvenience and adversary, such as late on Friday afternoon or the day preceding a secular or religious holiday.
4. Service should be made personally or by courtesy copy facsimile transmission when it is likely that service by mail, even when allowed, will prejudice the opposing party.
C. WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS TO A COURT, INCLUDING BRIEFS, MEMORANDA,
AFFIDAVITS AND DECLARATIONS
1. Written briefs or memoranda of points and authorities should not rely on facts that are not properly part of the record. A litigant may, however, present historical, economic or sociological data, if such data appear in or are derived from generally available sources.
2. Neither written submissions nor oral presentations should disparage the intelligence, ethics, moral integrity or personal behavior of one’s adversaries, unless such things are directly and necessarily in issue.
D. COMMUNICATIONS WITH ADVERSARIES.
1. Counsel should at all times be civil and courteous in communicating with adversaries, whether in writing or orally.
2. Letters should not be written to ascribe to one’s adversary a position he or she has not taken or to create “a record” of events that have not occurred.
3. Letters intended only to make a record should be used sparingly and only when thought to be necessary under all the circumstances.
4. Unless specifically permitted or invited by the court, letters between counsels should not be sent to judges.
5. A lawyer should adhere strictly to all expenses promises to an agreement with opposing counsel, whether oral or writing, and should adhere in good faith to all agreements implied by the circumstance or by local custom.
6. During the course of representation of a client, a lawyer should not communicate or cause another to communicate on the subject of the representation with a party known to be represented by a lawyer in that matter without prior consent of the lawyer representing such other party unless authorized by law to do so.
1. Depositions should be taken only when actually needed to ascertain facts or information or to perpetuate testimony. They should never be used as a means of harassment or to generate expense.
2. In scheduling depositions, reasonable consideration should be given to accommodating schedules of opposing counsel and of the deponent, where it is possible to do so without prejudicing the client’s rights.
3. In scheduling depositions upon oral examination, a lawyer should allow enough time to permit the conclusion of the deposition, including examination by all parties, without adjournment.
4. When another party notices a deposition in the reasonably near future counsel should ordinarily not notice another deposition for an earlier date without the agreement of opposing counsel.
5. Counsel should not attempt to delay a deposition for dilatory purposes but if necessary to meet real scheduling problems.
6. Counsel should not inquire into a deponent’s personal affairs or question a deponent’s integrity where such inquiry is irrelevant to the subject matter of the deposition.
7. Counsel should refrain from repetitive or argumentative questions or those asked solely for purposes of harassment.
8. Counsel defending a deposition should limit objections to those that are well founded and necessary for the protection of a client’s interest. Counsel should bear in mind that most objections are preserved and need to be interposed only when the form of a question is defective or privileged information is sought.
9. While a question is pending, counsel should not, through objections or otherwise, coach the deponent or suggest answers.
10. Counsel should not direct a deponent to refuse to answer questions unless they seek privileged information or are manifestly irrelevant or calculated to harass, or are not calculated to lead to admissible evidence.
11. Counsel for all parties should refrain from self-serving speeches during depositions.
12. Counsel should not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be allowed in the presence of a judicial officer.
F. DOCUMENT DEMANDS.
1. Demands for production of documents should be limited to documents actually and reasonably believed to be needed for the prosecution or defense of an action and not made to harass or embarrass a party or witness or to impose an inordinate burden or expense in responding.
2. Demands for document production should not be so broad as to encompass documents clearly not relevant to the subject matter of the case.
3. In responding to document demands, counsel should not strain to interpret the request in an artificially restrictive manner in order to avoid disclosure.
4. Documents should be withheld on the grounds of privilege only where appropriate.
5. Counsel should not produce documents in a disorganized or unintelligible fashion, or in a way calculated to hide or obscure the existence of particular documents.
6. Document production should not be delayed to prevent opposing counsel from inspecting documents prior to scheduled depositions or for any other tactical reason.
1. Interrogatories should be used sparingly and never to harass or impose undue burden or expense on adversaries.
2. Interrogatories should not be read by the recipient in an artificial manner designed to assure the answers are not truly responsive.
3. Objections to interrogatories should be based on a good faith belief in their merit and not made for the purpose of withholding relevant information. If an interrogatory is objectionable only in part, the unobjectionable portion should be answered.
4. A lawyer should never use discovery for the purpose of harassing or improperly burdening an adversary or causing the adversary to incur unnecessary expense.
H. MOTION PRACTICE.
1. Before setting a motion for hearing, counsel should make effort to resolve the issue.
2. A lawyer should not force his or her adversary to make a motion and then not oppose it.
3. Following a hearing, the attorney charged with preparing the proposed order should prepare it properly, generally no later than the following business day, unless it should immediately be submitted to the court. Attorneys should promptly provide, either orally or in writing, proposed orders to opposing counsel for approval. Opposing counsel should then promptly communicate any objections and at that time, the drafting attorney should immediately submit a copy of the proposed order to the court and advise the court as to whether or not it has been approved by opposing counsel. The order must fairly and adequately represent the ruling of the court.
I. DEALING WITH NON-PARTY WITNESSES.
1. Counsel should not issue subpoenas to non-party witnesses except in connection with their appearance at a hearing, trial or deposition.
2. Deposition subpoenas should be accompanied by notices of deposition with copies to all counsel.
3. Where counsel obtains documents pursuant to a deposition subpoena, copies of the documents should be made available as soon as possible to the adversary at his or her expense even if the deposition is cancelled or adjourned.
J. EX PARTE COMMUNCATIONS WITH THE COURT AND OTHERS.
1. A lawyer should avoid ex parte communication on the substance of a pending case with a judge before whom such case is pending.
2. Even where applicable laws or rules permit an ex parte application or communication to the court, before making such an application or communication, a lawyer should make diligent efforts to notify the opposing party or a lawyer known to represent or likely to represent the opposing party and should make reasonable efforts to accommodate the schedule of such lawyer to permit the opposing party to be represented on the application. A lawyer should make such application or communication (including an application to shorten an otherwise applicable time period) (only where there is a bona fide emergency such that the lawyer’s client will be seriously prejudiced by a failure to make the application or communication on regular notice.
3. Attorneys should notify opposing counsel of all oral or written communications with the court or other tribunal, except those involving only scheduling matters. Copies of any submissions to the court (such as correspondence, memoranda of law, case law, etc.), should simultaneously be provided to opposing counsel by substantially the same method of delivery by which they are provided to the court. For example, if a memorandum of law is hand-delivered to the court, at the same time a copy should be hand-delivered or faxed to opposing counsel.
4. A lawyer should be courteous and may be cordial to a judge but should never show marked attention or unusual informality to a judge, uncalled for by their personal relations. A judge should be referred to by surname in court. A lawyer should avoid anything calculated to gain, or having the appearance of gaining, special personal consideration or favor from a judge.
K. SETTLEMENT AND ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION.
1. Except where there are strong and overriding issues of principle, an attorney should raise and explore the issue of settlement in every case as soon as enough is known about the case to make settlement discussions meaningful.
2. Counsel should not falsely hold out the possibility of settlement as a means for adjourning discovery or delaying trial.
3. In every case, counsel should consider whether the client’s interest could be adequately served and the controversy more expeditiously and economically disposed of by arbitration, mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
L. PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE
1. A lawyer should carefully read the order setting trial and complete the pre-trial conference statement in full to the extent it can be agreed to by the parties.
2. A lawyer should be familiar with all the evidence in the case.
3. A lawyer should be sure discovery is completed of address the need for additional discovery with opposing counsel in advance, or file an appropriate motion.
4. A lawyer should evaluate the case and have a figure in mind at which the case could reasonably settle with authorization from the client to do so.
5. A lawyer should determine if the court needs to, and agrees to, hear any motions at the pre-trial.
6. The attorney who will try the case must appear at the pre-trial conference, unless excused by the Court.
7. A lawyer should not ask for a continuance unless the client agrees and signs the motion.
M. TRIAL, CONDUCT AND COURTROOM DECORUM.
1. A lawyer should always deal with parties, counsel, witnesses, jurors or prospective jurors, court personnel and the judge with courtesy and civility and avoid undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to the court.
2. Be punctual and prepared for any court appearance.
3. Stand as court is opened, recessed or adjourned; when the jury enters or retires from the courtroom; and when addressing, or being addressed by the Court.
4. Examination of jurors and witnesses should be conducted from a suitable distance. A lawyer should not crowd or lean over the witness or jury and during interrogation should avoid blocking opposing counsel’s view of the witness.
5. It is inappropriate to extract promises and suggest specific monetary amounts during voir dire.
6. Counsel should address all public remarks to the court, not to opposing counsel.
7. A lawyer should avoid disparaging personal remarks or acrimony toward opposing counsel.
8. Counsel should refer to all adult persons, including witnesses, other counsel, and the parties by their surnames and not by their first or given names.
9. Only one attorney for each party shall examine, or cross-examine each witness. The attorney stating objections, if any, during direct examination, shall be the attorney recognized for cross-examination.
10. Counsel should request permission before approaching the bench. Any documents counsel wish to have the Court examine should be handled to the clerk.
11. Have the clerk pre-mark potential exhibits.
12. Any paper or exhibit not previously marked for identification should first be handed to the clerk to be marked before it is tendered to a witness for examination. Any exhibit offered in evidence should, at the time of such offer, be handed to opposing counsel.
13. In making objections, counsel should state only the legal grounds for the objection and should withhold all further comment or argument unless elaboration is requested by the Court.
14. Generally, in examining a witness, counsel shall not repeat or echo the answer given by the witness.
15. Offers of, or requests for, a stipulation should be made privately, not within the hearing of the jury, unless the offeror knows or has reason to believe the opposing lawyer will accept it.
16. In opening statements and in arguments to the jury, counsel shall not express personal knowledge or opinion concerning any matter in issue.
17. Counsel shall admonish all persons at counsel table that gestures, facial expressions, audible comments, or the like, as manifestations of approval or disapproval during the testimony of witnesses, or at any other time, are absolutely prohibited.
18. During trials and evidentiary hearings the lawyers should mutually agree to disclose the identities, and duration of witnesses anticipated to be called that day and the following day, including depositions to be read, and should cooperate in sharing with opposing counsel all visual-aid equipment.
19. A lawyer should not mark on or alter exhibits, charts, graphs, and diagrams without opposing counsel’s permission or leave of Court.
20. A lawyer should abstain from conduct calculated to detract or divert the fact-finder’s attention from the relevant facts or otherwise cause it to reach a decision on an impermissible basis.
21. A lawyer’s word should be his or her bond. The lawyer should not knowingly misstate, distort, or improperly exaggerate any fact or opinion and should not improperly permit the lawyer’s silence or inaction to mislead anyone.
22. A charge of impropriety by one lawyer against another in the course of litigation should never be made except when relevant to the issues of the case.
23. A lawyer should not pay, offer to pay, or acquiesce in the payment of compensation to a witness contingent upon the content of his testimony or the outcome of the case. A lawyer, however, may advance, guarantee or acquiesce in the payment of:
(a) expenses reasonably incurred by a witness in attending or testifying;
(b) reasonable compensation to a witness for his lost time in attending or testifying;
(c) a reasonable fee for the professional services of an expert witness.
24. In appearing in his or her professional capacity before a tribunal, a lawyer should not:
(a) state or allude to any matter that he or she has no reasonable basis to believe is relevant to the case or that will not be supported by admissible evidence;
(b) ask any question that he or she has no reasonable basis to believe is relevant to the case and that is intended to degrade a witness or other person;
(c) assert one’s personal knowledge of the facts in issue, except when testifying as a witness;
(d) assert one’s personal opinion as to the justness of a cause, as to the credibility of a witness, as to the culpability of a civil litigant, or as to the guilt or innocence of an accused; but may argue, on the lawyer’s analysis of the evidence, for any position or conclusion with respect to the matters stated herein.
25. A question should not be interrupted by an objection unless the question is patently objectionable or there is reasonable ground to believe that matter is being included which cannot properly be disclosed to the jury.
26. A lawyer should address objections, requests and observations to the Court and not engage in undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to court procedure.
27. Where a judge has already made a ruling in regard to the inadmissibility of certain evidence, a lawyer should not seek to circumvent the effect of that ruling and get the evidence before the jury by repeating questions relating to the evidence in question, although he is at liberty to make a record for later
proceedings of his ground for urging the admissibility of the evidence in question. This does not preclude the evidence being properly admitted through other means.
28. A lawyer should not attempt to get before the jury evidence which is improper.
29. A lawyer should scrupulously abstain from all acts, comments and attitudes calculated to curry favor with any juror, by fawning, flattery, actual or pretended solicitude for the juror’s comfort or convenience or the like.
30. A lawyer should never attempt to place before a tribunal, or jury, evidence known to be clearly inadmissible, nor make any remarks or statements which are intended to improperly influence the outcome of any case.
31. A lawyer should accede to reasonable requests for waivers of procedural formalities when the client’s legitimate interests are not adversely affected.
32. Attorneys should not knowingly misstate, misrepresent or distort any fact or legal authority to the court or to opposing counsel and shall not mislead by inaction or silence. Further, if this occurs unintentionally and is later discovered, it should immediately be disclosed or otherwise corrected.