Deborah Enix-Ross would like to see a national movement promoting civility. She has made civics, civility, and collaboration a primary focus of her term as President of the American Bar Association. Ms. Enix-Ross has taken her message that “civility is a choice” to events at universities, law schools, and bar associations across the country.
This month she joined the Washington Lawyers’ Chapter of The Federalist Society for a program entitled “Civility in the Law.” Reginald Brown, President of the Chapter, moderated the discussion with David Boies, Chairman and Managing Partner of Boies, Schiller, Flexner, LLP, and the Honorable Charles J. Cooper, Chairman and Managing Partner of Cooper & Kirk, LLP. Mr. Boies and Mr. Cooper were opposing counsel in a case regarding same sex marriage.
Panelists discussed a declining trend in civility in the legal profession. This includes in the treatment of counsel by judges and the judicial confirmation process. Ms. Enix-Ross highlighted the results of an ABA Civics Survey where 85 percent of the respondents said that civility was worse now than ten years ago. Some of the contributing causes were social media, media in general, and political leadership.
The ABA Survey respondents cited promoting civil discussion among family and friends as one of the solutions to reversing this trend. Mr. Cooper noted that as a practical matter, with the advances in technology that create permanent records of many public activities and events, civility is the smart approach to life in order to prevent losing job or clerkship opportunities. Mr. Boies described his experience working on Capitol Hill and the importance of professionalism and collegiality when working with opposing parties The full program is available here.