ABI Releases Standards of Professional Courtesy and Conduct for Bankruptcy Professionals

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August 28, 2013, Alexandria, Va.— The ABI Civility Task Force released its proposed Principles of Civility to encourage bankruptcy professionals to promote integrity and increase public trust in the bankruptcy system. The Civility Task Force’s proposed principles are designed to guide ABI’s member community of more than 13,000 by codifying fundamental concepts of civility.

Chaired by James Patrick Shea of Armstrong Teasdale LLP (Las Vegas, Nev.), with David W. Houston, IV, of Burr & Forman LLP (Nashville, Tenn.) and Emily Taube of Adams and Reese LLP (Memphis, Tenn.) serving as Vice Chairs and Prof. Jessica D. Gabel of Georgia State University College of Law (Atlanta) serving as reporter, the Task Force drafted a set of principles to define the expected degree of courtesy and professionalism that should be used among insolvency professionals and to provide specific guidance to those new to bankruptcy practice.

“The Task Force report is grounded in the belief that civility by an attorney or another bankruptcy professional is not a sign of weakness, but rather an obligation,” said ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano.

The principles are broken out into the following categories:

General Duties of Professionals:

1. Professionals should be courteous and civil in all professional dealings with others.

2. When not conflicting with their clients’ interests, professionals should cooperate with other professionals in an effort to avoid unnecessary litigation and to resolve litigation that already has commenced.

3. Professionals should respect the schedules and commitments of others, consistent with the protection of their clients’ interests.

4. A professional should return telephone calls promptly and respond to communications that reasonably require a response, with due consideration of time zone differences and other known circumstances affecting availability.

5. The time and manner of the servicing of papers should not be designed to cause disadvantage or embarrassment to the party receiving the papers.

6. A professional should not use any aspect of the litigation process, including discovery and motion practice, as a means of harassment or for the purpose of unnecessarily prolonging litigation or increasing litigation expenses.

7. In out-of-court proceedings, professionals should not engage in any conduct that would not be appropriate in the presence of a judge.

8. A professional should keep his or her word.

9. A professional should not mislead others involved in the bankruptcy process.

General Duties of Lawyers

1. Lawyers should be respectful of the schedules and commitments of others.

2. In examinations and other proceedings, as well as in meetings and negotiations, professionals should conduct themselves with dignity and refrain from displaying rudeness and disrespect.

3. Lawyers should not mislead others involved in the bankruptcy process.

Lawyers’ Duties to the Court and Court Personnel

1. A lawyer is both an officer of the court and an advocate. As such a lawyer should always strive to uphold the honor and dignity of the profession, avoid disorder and disruption in the courtroom, and maintain a respectful attitude toward the court and its personnel.

2. Court personnel are an integral part of the justice system and should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.

Duties of Judges and Court Personnel to Lawyers, Parties and Witnesses

1. A judge should be patient, courteous and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses.

2. Court personnel should be courteous, patient and respectful while providing prompt, efficient and helpful service to all persons having business with the courts.

These principles do not form a basis for litigation sanctions or penalties. Rather, ABI intends that members of the bankruptcy profession voluntarily agree to adhere to these principles so as to improve the profession and the administration of justice for all of its participants.

To obtain a copy of the ABI Civility Task Force Report on Standards of Professional Courtesy and Conduct, please visit


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