Ethics and Civility in the Courtroom and Beyond

  • December 03, 2018
  • Lawrence A. Conmigo

Conduct that may be characterized as uncivil, abrasive, hostile, or obstructive necessarily impedes the goal of resolving conflicts rationally, peacefully, and efficiently, in turn delaying or even denying justice . . .. This mindset eliminates peaceable dealings and often forces dilatory, inconsiderate tactics that detract from just resolution.  

(K.A. Nagorney, “A Noble Profession? A Discussion of Civility Among Lawyers” (1999), 12 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 815, at p. 817.)

On December 4, 2018, the Ontario Bar Association is presenting its third annual Ethics and Civility in the Courtroom and Beyond. The program ultimately started out of a fierce debate between a lawyer and his former high school principal, who coincidentally was Joseph Groia’s high school teacher and one of his staunchest supporters.  

At its inaugural program in 2016, Joseph Groia argued that “zealous advocacy and fearless representation of our clients are at the core of our duties as lawyers, while the determined pursuit of civility and the zealous prosecution of incivility threatens the profession’s very existence.” (Groia et al., “Discouraging Excellence” presented at the OBA Legal Conference in the session, “Ethics and Civility in the Courtroom and Beyond” on December 6, 2016 in Toronto Ontario.) But are there limits to our duty to advocate for our clients?  If there are, should there be?