Here’s some free risk management advice: think twice before giving another lawyer a chest bump – especially if the recipient is a criminal prosecutor.
Just ask the defense lawyer in Louisiana who was suspended for a year after chest bumping a District Attorney in a judge’s chambers.
In a January opinion, the Supreme Court of Louisiana said the attorney committed criminal acts reflecting adversely on his fitness as a lawyer and that his conduct was prejudicial to the administration of justice. Read the opinion here.
The incident occurred after a conference in the judge’s chambers. Words were exchanged, then came the chest bump, according to reports in the ABA Journal and the Legal Profession Blog. The lawyer was found guilty of simple battery in a 2016 trial that featured witness testimony from the judge, the judge’s assistant and the court reporter.
The Louisiana Supreme Court said while the incident “caused no actual physical harm, it did impair the public reputation of the profession and the judicial system.” It issued a suspension of a year and one day, which means the attorney will have to formally apply for reinstatement. He had a prior disciplinary record.
NC Rules on Civility and Professionalism
Here are some provisions from the preamble to the NC Rules of Professional Conduct that are on point:
- “Although a matter is hotly contested by the parties, a lawyer should treat opposing counsel with courtesy and respect. The legal dispute of the client must never become the lawyer’s personal dispute with opposing counsel. A lawyer, moreover, should provide zealous but honorable representation without resorting to unfair or offensive tactics. The legal system provides a civilized mechanism for resolving disputes, but only if the lawyers themselves behave with dignity.” [Section 13]
- “A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is … an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.” [Section 1]
- “A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold the legal process…. A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs.” [Section 5]
- “The legal profession is a group of people united in a learned calling for the public good.” [Section 8]
- “Many of a lawyer’s professional responsibilities are prescribed in the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as substantive and procedural law. However, a lawyer is also guided by personal conscience and the approbation of professional peers. A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.” [Section 10]