The American Bar Association has recently amended Model Rule of Professional Misconduct 8.4 to explicitly forbid knowing harassment or discrimination on the basis of basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status. Approximately half of states had previously adopted such a rule, but the ABA’s amendment represents what has become the national trend. Although New Jersey’s Rules previously included such a provision, Pennsylvania is now faced with a choice as to whether to follow suit.
Advocates of the amended rule explain that it will protect female attorneys who have traditionally faced misogynistic remarks at the workplace, even in the court room. But in addition to working towards the elimination of “honeys” or “darlings” that many female attorneys face while trying to professionally litigate a case, the new rule has a broader reach to preclude many forms of discriminatory conduct. The new rule does contain qualifiers to protect an attorney’s need to vigorously represent their clients: the rule applies only where a lawyer knew or should have known that his conduct constituted harassment or discrimination, and the rule does not apply to “legitimate” advocacy.
If you need an ethical opinion or are facing professional discipline, or if you feel you have been discriminated against at work on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status, the attorneys at Leonard Sciolla are experienced at handling such matters. For questions regarding professional ethics, contact John Leonard or Marisa Ciarrocki. If you feel you have been discriminated against, our attorneys can be reached at (215) 567-1530.
Published September 2, 2016