ABA: Discrimination and harassment amount to misconduct

There are a wide range of potential blunders and misdeeds that might prompt Bar Counsel to launch an investigation of a lawyer (as anyone who keeps tabs on the Court of Appeals’ attorney grievance-related opinions knows).

The American Bar Association on Monday broadened the definition of attorney misconduct further with the passing of Resolution 109, which deems it professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know” is harassment or discrimination.

While the New York Times reported the resolution’s passing in an article titled “Goodbye to ‘Honeys’ in Court, By Vote of the American Bar Association” — a reference to the sexist remarks female attorneys have reported being forced to tolerate while practicing law — not everyone was celebrating the change.

A conservative legal nonprofit sent a letter opposing the resolution to the bar association last week, calling the proposed amendment a “clear and extraordinary threat to free speech and religious liberty” and claiming it would ban attorneys from speaking out about “contentious” issues.

According to the Times, several dozen state bars and the District of Columbia bar already have similar rules — including Maryland, where Rule 8.4(e) of the Maryland Lawyer’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits attorneys from “knowingly manifest[ing]” bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

Both the Maryland bar and the ABA stipulate that “legitimate advocacy” is not precluded by the rule.

One comment

  1. Excellent decision by ABA.

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