New California lawyers will soon have to swear to be courteous and dignified under a change in the legal oath approved by the California Supreme Court.
As of May 23, the oath required of lawyers admitted to the California bar will include a so-called civility pledge, officials announced Thursday. The court adopted it at the urging of the American Board of Trial Advocates, which has pushed for the change nationwide, and the State Bar of California.
New lawyers previously have been required to say this oath: "I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of an attorney and counselor at law to the best of my knowledge and ability."
In the future, the lawyers will have to make one more promise: "As an officer of the court, I will strive to conduct myself at all times with dignity, courtesy, and integrity."
The new language was the first major change to the lawyers' oath since it was codified into law in 1872.
Douglas DeGrave, immediate past president of the California Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates, called the revision a "historic moment for the legal community."
"As professionals, we have an obligation to conduct ourselves with dignity, courtesy, and integrity," DeGrave said in a statement released by the court. "Many have forgotten these very principles to which we, as professionals, should always adhere."
Patrick Kelly, past president of the state bar, said the promise to be civil would remind lawyers to adhere to principles of professionalism, particularly in their dealings with clients, other attorneys and judges.
Mark Robinson Jr., president of the American Board of Trial Advocates group and a member of California's Judicial Council, which sets policy for state courts, said the new language "is a great thing for justice here in California."