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ABA 109

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ABA 109

Charles Peckham here talking about a movement in the legal profession.

In August 2016, The American Bar Association adopted a resolution to strengthen language in Rule 8.4 of the model rules of professional conduct that would classify harassment or discrimination in the practice of law professional misconduct subject to disciplinary action.

While the State Bar of Texas has not adopted this rule, the proposal drew widespread nationwide interest. The question was not about whether lawyers should be able to discriminate or be above the law, but whether they should be subject to bar action affecting their licensure for discrimination or harassment.

More than 70 ABA members signed up to speak on behalf of the revised proposal, while none spoke against it. The House approved the change by voice vote with only a few members voting “no.”

The resolution that revised Rule 8.4 specifically addresses harassment and discriminatory conduct by a lawyer based on race, religion, sex, disability, LGBTQ status and other factors when such conduct is related to the practice of law. Previously, language covering such behavior was included in a comment to the model rule but was not considered as authoritative as specific language. ABA model rules, which support professional standards, serve as guides for state regulatory bodies that govern the legal profession; model rules carry no licensing authority per se.

Lawyers should be aware of these changes and the questions about whether the bar will continue to lead in these important areas of diversity and equality and whether this change is helpful to prevent discrimination, whether it sends a positive message to the public or whether it is even necessary to add this penalty to existing law.