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Code of Conduct

Persons admitted to practice in the Southern District of California are reminded of the Code of Conduct and the rules on professionalism contained in the local rules of the United States District Court:

Civil Rule 2.1 Professionalism

a.    Code of Conduct. The following Code of Conduct establishes the principles of civility and professionalism that will govern the conduct of all participants in cases and proceedings pending in this Court. It is to be construed in the broadest sense and governs conduct relating to such cases and proceedings, whether occurring in the presence of the Court or occurring outside of the presence of the Court. This Code of Conduct is not intended to be a set of rules that lawyers can use to incite ancillary litigation on the question whether the standards have been observed, but the Court may take any appropriate measure to address violations, including, without limitation, as set forth in Civil L. Rule 2.2.

1.    Principles of Civility. To borrow from others who have considered the importance of civility in our state and federal courts, we should all understand that the law preserves our freedom, and it is the courts that preserve our laws. Fair, impartial and accessible courts are fundamental to the preservation of our democracy. We-- judges, lawyers, court staff, parties—all have a responsibility in ensuring that we preserve the legacy of this institution by conducting ourselves according to the Golden Rule—to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.

In seeking justice through the courts, attorneys and parties subject themselves to an inherently adversarial system. Although adversarial, the experience does not have to, and should not, be antagonistic or hostile. Civility is paramount and not to be confused with weakness. Civility in action and words is fundamental to the effective and efficient functioning of our system of justice and public confidence in that system.

The Federal Rules and this court’s Local and Chambers’ Rules serve as safeguards to ensure that the principles of equity and fairness govern the procedural course of all litigation. At the same time, these resources, without more, may not sufficiently quell incivility amongst those who litigate in this court. The Court has therefore adopted the following Code of Conduct. No one is above the law and, equally important, no one is entitled to act in such a way that erodes the public’s trust in the administration of justice, impartiality, and the search for the truth. Civility should not only be aspirational, but rather it should be inherent within us all. Nevertheless, this Code of Conduct serves as the Court’s reminder that we owe it to ourselves, one another, and our justice system to act in accordance with the principles of fairness and equal treatment that underpin the law of our land.

This court is committed to ensuring that all who work within it and come before it treat each other with decency, dignity, and respect. As such, the Court expects that all who practice in this court will adhere to this Code of Conduct in all of their interactions within the courts of this judicial district, in order to nurture, rather than tarnish, the practice of law and to maintain the public’s faith in the legitimacy of our judicial system.  The Court acknowledges the substantial work of the San Diego County Bar Association in developing the Association’s Attorney Civility and Practice Guidelines, which this court has adopted, in substantial part, in this Code of Conduct.

2.    Duties Owed to the Court

  1. We expect lawyers to be courteous and respectful to the Court and all court and court-related personnel.
  2. We expect lawyers arguing for an extension of existing law to clearly state that fact and why.
  3. We expect lawyers appearing in court to dress neatly and appropriately and encourage their clients to do the same.
  4. We expect lawyers to be on time and adhere to time constraints.
  5. We expect lawyers to be prepared for all court appearances. We expect lawyers to attempt to resolve disputes promptly, fairly and reasonably, with resort to the Court for judicial relief only if necessary.
  6. We expect lawyers to discourage and refuse to accept a role in litigation that is meritless or designed primarily to harass or drain the financial resources of the opposing party.
  7. We expect lawyers to honor and maintain the integrity of our justice system, including by not impugning the integrity of its proceedings, or its members.

 3.    Duties Owed to Other Lawyers, Parties and Witnesses.

  1. We expect lawyers to address legal arguments with other lawyers professionally, and not personally.
  2. We expect lawyers to treat adverse witnesses, litigants and opposing counsel with courtesy, fairness and respect.
  3. We expect lawyers to conduct themselves in the discovery process as if a judicial officer were present.
  4. We expect lawyers to not arbitrarily or unreasonable withhold consent to a reasonable request for cooperation or accommodation.
  5. We expect lawyers to refrain from attributing to an opponent a position the opponent has not clearly taken.
  6. We expect lawyers to be accurate in written communications intended to make a record.
  7. We expect lawyers to refrain from proposing a stipulation in the presence of the Court or trier of fact unless the other parties have previously agreed to it.
  8. We expect lawyers to refrain from interrupting an opponent’s legal argument unless making an appropriate objection for a legitimate basis.
  9. We expect lawyers in court to address opposing lawyers through the Court.
  10. We expect lawyers to seek sanctions sparingly, and not to obtain a tactical advantage or for any other improper purpose.
  11. We expect lawyers to refrain from seeking to disqualify opposing counsel for any improper purpose or for any reason not supported by fact or law.
  12. We expect lawyers to encourage other lawyers to conform to the standards in this Code of Conduct.
  13. We expect lawyers to conduct themselves so that they may conclude each case amicably with the opposing party.