Standards of Professional Courtesy
Attorneys are usually retained to represent clients in disputes. The practice of law is largely an adversarial process. Attorneys are ethically bound to represent and advocate for their clients’ interests. Nonetheless, certain standards of professional courtesy must be observed. The following standards of professional courtesy describe the conduct preferred and expected by attorneys practicing in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. These standards are not meant to be exhaustive, rather they are intended to set a tone or guide for conduct. These standards have been codified with the hope that their dissemination will educate new attorneys and those who may be unfamiliar with customary local practices. Compliance with these standards, unlike the “Oath of Admission” and the “Rules of Professional Conduct” adopted by the Florida Supreme Court, is intended to be voluntary. They have received the approval of the Bar Associations and the Judges of the Seventh Judicial Circuit. The Judges of the Seventh Judicial Circuit expect professional conduct by all attorneys who appear and practice before them.
1. Attorneys should endeavor to provide opposing counsel, parties, witnesses, and other affected persons, with sufficient notice of depositions, hearings and other proceedings, except upon agreement of counsel, in an emergency, or in other circumstances compelling more expedited scheduling. As a general rule, actual notice should be given that is no less than five (5) business days for in-state depositions, ten (10) business days for out-of-state depositions, and five (5) business days for hearings.
2. Attorneys should 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. Further, sufficient time should be reserved to permit complete presentations by counsel for all parties.
3. Attorneys should notify opposing counsel, the court, and others affected, of scheduling conflicts as soon as they become apparent. Further, attorneys should cooperate with one another regarding all reasonable rescheduling requests that do not prejudice their clients or unduly delay a proceeding.
4. Attorneys should promptly notify the court or other tribunal of any resolution between parties that renders a scheduled court appearance unnecessary or otherwise moot.
5. Attorneys should grant reasonable requests by opposing counsel for extensions of time to respond to pleadings, discovery and other matters when such extensions will not prejudice their client or unduly delay a proceeding.
6. Attorneys should cooperate with opposing counsel during trials and evidentiary hearings by disclosing the identities of all witnesses reasonably expected to be called and the length of time needed to present their entire case, except when a client’s material rights would be adversely affected. They should also cooperate with the calling of witnesses out of turn when the circumstances justify it.
1. Attorneys should pursue discovery requests that are reasonably related to the matter at issue. Attorneys should not use discovery to harass or embarrass opposing counsel, or to cause him/her to incur unnecessary expenses.
2. Attorneys should not use discovery to cause undue delay or to obtain an unfair advantage.
3. Attorneys should ensure that responses to reasonable discovery requests are timely, organized, complete and consistent with the obvious intent of the request. For example, a response to a request to produce should refer to each of the items in the request and should refer to each set of documents as separately marked exhibits.
III. Conduct Toward Other Attorneys, the Court and Participants
1. Attorneys should refrain from criticizing or denigrating the court, opposing counsel, parties or witnesses, before their clients, the public or the media, as it brings dishonor to our profession.
2. Attorneys should be, and should impress upon their clients and witnesses the need to be, courteous and respectful and not rude or disruptive with the court, opposing counsel, parties and witnesses.
3. Attorneys should explain to witnesses the purpose of their required attendance at depositions, hearings or trials. They should further attempt to accommodate the schedules of witnesses when setting or resetting their appearances and promptly notify them of any cancellations.
4. Attorneys should respect and abide by the spirit and letter of all rulings of the court.
IV. Candor to the Court/Other Counsel
1. Attorneys should not knowingly misstate, misrepresent, or distort any fact or legal authority to the court or to opposing counsel and should not mislead by inaction or silence. Further, if this occurs unintentionally, it should immediately be disclosed or otherwise corrected.
2. 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 were 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 the opposing counsel.
3. Attorneys should draft proposed orders promptly and the orders should fairly and adequately represent the rulings of the court. Attorneys should promptly provide 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.
4. Attorneys should draft agreements and other documents promptly and fairly to reflect the true intent of the parties. When revisions are made to an agreement or other document, attorneys should point out or otherwise highlight any such additions, deletions or modifications for all opposing counsel.
V. Efficient Administration
1. Attorneys should refrain from actions intended primarily to harass or embarrass and should refrain from actions that cause unnecessary expense or delay.
2. Attorneys should, whenever possible, prior to filing or upon receiving a motion, contact opposing counsel to determine if the matter can be resolved in whole or in part. This may alleviate the need for filing the motion or allow submission of an agreed order in lieu of a hearing.
3. Attorneys should, whenever appropriate, stipulate to all facts and legal authority not reasonably in dispute.
4. Attorneys should encourage principled negotiations and efficient resolution of disputes on their merits.
Adopted by the Judges of the Seventh Judicial Circuit this 4th day of June, 2004.
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