Lawyer Who Won’t Play Nice Gets Homework Assignment from Judge

Delaware attorneys are not strangers to civility. In 2003, the Delaware Supreme Court and the Delaware Bar Association promulgated the “Principles of Professionalism for Delaware Lawyers.” The Principles provide insight into the practice of law in the First State. “Civility” is defined in the Principles and is taken seriously by the courts and bar as a whole.

The Principles demonstrate that civility in the workplace is not limited to the cubicles of corporate America. Jerks at Work are not welcome in any workplace, including the lawyer’s workplace-the courtroom. Here’s a story about a judge outside of Delaware who is an advocate of civility:

U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange sanctioned lawyer Gerard Pignato for his extraordinarily jerky conduct. Pignato was reprimanded for comments he made in letters to his opposing counsel. As penance, the judge ordered the sharp-tongued Pignato to write an article on civility. He must include why he is writing the article and direct it to new attorneys, so they might avoid a similar embarrassment.

Here are some examples of his noxious and debasing comments:

Your self-serving comments are putting me to sleep.
Can you not say anything in a page or less?
You’re just a broker who refers difficult cases to experienced attorneys.
Be like a potted plant and sit quietly in the corner.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to experience this type of attack from a colleague, vendor, or customer, even. This conduct is very effective-no matter how illogical, it is difficult to jut brush off degrading comments.

I think Judge Miles-LaGrange should be applauded for taking action when she saw what can be described only as unbecoming conduct. And her response is commendable, as well. Unlike a monetary fine, Mr. Pignato is forced to sit down, pen in hand, and mull over his behavior and put into words just how dishonorable his actions were and how embarrassing this type of attitude is for other members of the bar. Plus, if his article deters even a single junior lawyer from scribing a seething note to opposing counsel, he’ll have made a real contribution to the profession.

The Preamble to the Principles of Professionalism states:

The purpose of adopting the Principles is to promote and foster the ideals of professional courtesy, conduct and cooperation. These Principles are fundamental to the functioning of our system of justice and public confidence in that system.

Maybe Mr. Pignato can use the Delaware Principles as a reference as he writes his article for the Oklahoma Bar Journal.

[Hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog]

John Phillips at The Word on Employment Law noted the ABA Journal’s post on this story, as well.

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