Hell fire and brimstone. In a feature story that says that disciplinary agencies throughout the country are starting to take incivility more seriously, "Dealing with the Costs of Incivility," ABA Journal recalls a case of an attorney suspended by the South Carolina for 90 days for incivility. In response to a letter on zoning to his church-client, the attorney wrote:
You have been sent a letter by purported Town Manager Kenneth McIver. The letter is false. You notice McIver has no Order. He also has no brains and it is questionable if he has a soul. Christ was crucified some 2000 years ago. The church is His body on earth. The pagans at Atlantic Beach want to crucify His body here on earth yet again.
We will continue to defend you against the Town’s insane [sic]. As they continue to have to pay for damages they pigheadedly cause the church. You will also be entitled to damages if you want to pursue them.
First graders know about freedom of religion. The pagans of Atlantic Beach think they are above God and the Federal law. They do not seem to be able to learn. People like them in S.C. tried to defy Federal law before with similar lack of success.
The South Carolina Supreme Court order rejected both the "duty to represent zealously" and "the client made me do it" defenses:
It is clear from the record in this matter that Respondent sent the letter as a calculated tactic to intimidate and insult his opponents. Although Respondent maintains he used many of the words at the request of his client, the Church, Respondent cannot discharge his responsibility for his use of disparaging name-calling and epithets by simply stating he was asked to behave in this unprofessional manner by his client.
Respondent has also justified his conduct by arguing that he has a duty to provide zealous representation. We agree that an attorney has an obligation to provide zealous representation to a client. However, an attorney also has a corresponding obligation to opposing parties, the public, his profession, the courts, and others to behave in a civilized and professional manner in discharging his obligations to his client. Legal disputes are often emotional and heated, and it is precisely for this reason that attorneys must maintain a professional demeanor while providing the necessary legal expertise to help resolve, not escalate, such disputes. Insulting and intimidating tactics serve only to undermine the administration of justice and respect for the rule of law, which ultimately does not serve the goals of the client or aid the resolution of disputes.
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