E.C. Deeno KitchenSeveral years ago when my University of Florida classmate, John DeVault, was running for president-elect of The Florida Bar, he asked me to arrange for him to meet the lawyers in the state attorney’s office here in Tallahassee. Our State Attorney Willie Meggs was gracious in introducing John to his staff though he made no endorsement. Later, Willie told me privately that John was a fine man, but surprised me by saying, “I really don’t like lawyers a lot.” That evening, I called my oldest friend, John Overchuck in Orlando. John’s as good a trial lawyer as I know. After reviewing my discussion with Willie, I surprised myself in saying to John, “Brother, there are a whole lot of lawyers I don’t like, either.” He agreed.Some of the finest people I’ve ever known are lawyers, particularly trial lawyers. They are sincere, talented, conscientious, and generous. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the public is not totally wrong about its perception of lawyers. An old friend from Taylor County told me many years ago that when two lawyers go to court, one of them must be lying. We know that’s not so, but there are reasons why the public ranks lawyers along side used car dealers in trustworthiness.In the last few years, the trial bar has grappled with issues relating to the topics of ethics and civility. During my 35 years at that bar, I’ve given more and more thought to those things myself. I want to share some of those thoughts, while admitting up front that in both areas I’ve been a repeat offender; hopefully, not so egregious as some.Let’s start with the premise that a central role of a trial lawyer is simply to tell the client’s story better than the client would be able to tell it. Using the old use of the word, we are their champions. As we all know, some tell stories better than others. We have been trained to use courtroom procedures to tell the client’s story persuasively. We don’t, however, change the story. We don’t tell it falsely. We tell it truthfully, and we tell it courteously. I believe that we are more persuasive if our audience knows us to be truthful and courteous. How can we persuade others of the justness of our client’s cause if we are perceived as untrustworthy jackasses instead of champions? The late Edward R. Murrow of CBS News said it well: “To be persuasive you must be believable; to be believable you must be credible; to be credible you must be truthful.”My old Webster’s dictionary defines “mentor” as a trusted counselor or guide, a tutor, or coach. Most of us have had mentors in our lives and professional careers. We could all use more. I practiced law for a year and a half with my late father-in-law, William Gautier of Volusia County, who died over 30 years ago. He was really the only father I ever had. Any judge or lawyer who ever knew him would still take his word over most people’s checks. For 19 years I was honored to practice law with Robert Ervin, a former Bar president, and Wilfred Varn, a former United States Attorney here in Tallahassee. There was my partner, Joe Jacobs, whose pastor said at his funeral: “Were there more lawyers like Joe Jacobs, there would be fewer lawyer jokes.”For 18 of those years, former Gov. LeRoy Collins, Florida’s greatest governor, was in our firm. If you look up the word “integrity” in the dictionary, you might find Roy’s picture. And, of course, there was my mother, Rose Deeb Kitchen, one of Florida’s first 150 women lawyers, who exposed me to everything I should know about ethics and civility before I ever went to law school.I had the opportunity to learn to practice law and try cases the “right” way. My failings are my own and not those of my mentors.While ethics and civility are interrelated, they are not the same. A lawyer can be ethical and obnoxious; or an absolute fraud, yet a delightful human being. So I’d like to deal with them separately, though realizing that in the final analysis if one lacks ethics or civility, the lawyer is flawed.Let’s talk about ethics. With rare exception, this is the easy one. Most of us should have learned these things well before law school. Over the years I’ve reduced ethics to the following:“If it ain’t so, don’t say it, and if it ain’t right, don’t do it;” “You’re never right when you’re wrong, and you’re never wrong when you’re right;” “If you have to ask whether it’s right to do it, don’t;” and lastly, “You know when you’re right, and you know when you’re wrong.” (There are, of course, ethical issues that evade these simplistic statements. A long time ago, I interviewed a client in the Leon County Jail accused of a stabbing murder. He handed me a letter opener he said he found in his cell. He told me to get rid of it because it was dangerous. Think about that for a minute. That’s why the Bar has a hot line. I may never tell you how I handled that one.) If we abide by the simple colloquialisms listed above, however, we will maintain a good reputation for ethical conduct. A stellar reputation for ethical conduct is just plain good advocacy. If you are trusted, you will be believed. If you are believed, you will persuade. Who will believe — and be persuaded by — someone they don’t trust?The late Bud Robinson of Jacksonville, another classmate of mine and one of Florida’s great trial lawyers, was also a mentor to me and to many others. The last time I saw him before his death, he told me: “Deeno, never ever take a cheap shot. No case is worth it. Win straight up or don’t win. Remember, you’re going to be a trial lawyer the rest of your life.”There is also this civility thing. To me this is the harder one. The Florida Bar Oath of Admission includes: “I will abstain from all offensive personalities….” The Bar’s Creed of Professionalism clearly states: “I will abstain from all rude, disruptive, disrespectful, and abusive behavior and will at all times act with dignity, decency, and courtesy.” Please read these quotes again and look for any exception to the civility requirement. There is none. There is no time when it is acceptable to engage in offensive personalities, or to be rude, disruptive, or disrespectful. There is no time when abusive behavior or lack of courtesy is acceptable — never.I’ve heard lawyers say, “I’ll treat my opponents as good as they treat me.” Well, that’s just not good enough. If it were justified to act uncivilly because our opponent did, then we could often justify incivility. The Hatfields can justify killing the McCoys and the McCoys can do the same. We see it all over the world, and it’s amazing how often lawyers try to justify their own incivility for just such reasons. Here are some examples I’ve seen personally in the last year: One of our fine lawyers, in a discovery dispute, told me he said to his opponent: “You were a jerk when I met you and you’re a jerk now.” I asked myself, when is it acceptable to say that to your opposing counsel? The answer is, never.A good trial lawyer I know was leaving a federal courthouse in the middle of trial with his client when the opposing counsel walked past them and said: “F… you.” I asked myself, when is it appropriate to say this to your opposing counsel, whether or not a client is present? The answer is, never.Finally, in the middle of my own trial I was in disagreement with my opposing counsel over a pretrial understanding concerning the admissibility of certain documents. My referring counsel said to my opponent: “All the rumors about you are true; you can’t be trusted.” I asked myself, when is it appropriate to say this to your opposing counsel? The answer is, simply never.Aside from being inappropriate, how could any of this conduct benefit a client’s case? How could this conduct ever improve your client’s position? The answer is, never.It should be clear that ethical conduct is good advocacy, that civil conduct is good advocacy. After all, in most of our cases, criminal and civil, there comes a time when we must try to reason with opposing counsel in an attempt to settle our differences. We all know this is much easier in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.Judge William Hoeveler of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida once said that when a jury renders a verdict based on the law and evidence, our system of justice gets a little bit better. But if a jury renders a verdict based on something other than the law and evidence, our system of justice gets a little bit worse. That concept applies somewhat to trial lawyers’ conduct, as well. When we handle our client’s affairs before our courts in an ethical and civil manner, our system of justice gets a little bit better, and if we handle those matters in an unethical or uncivil manner, our system of justice gets a little bit worse. It can truly be said as to each of us, when our time at the Bar is over, our system of justice will either be a little bit better or a little bit worse because of our efforts — it will not be the same.Those are my thoughts. I’ll leave you with this: If you can’t be ethical and civil because it’s the right thing to do, then at least do it because it’s good advocacy and benefits your client. No, on second thought, do it because it’s the right thing to do. Deeno Kitchen is a board certified civil trial lawyer and practices at Kitchen, Judkins, Simpson and High in Tallahassee. He can be reached at [email protected] kjshlaw.com. In Practice Where have all the mentors gone? August 1, 2003 Regular News
Gretchen Barretto’s daughter Dominique graduates magna cum laude from California college Yulo tallied 14.600 points to wind up on the podium in the men’s floor final.Artur Dalaloyan of Russia took home the gold medal with 14.900 points while Kenzo Shirai of Japan was a close second with 14.866 points.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSJapeth Aguilar wins 1st PBA Finals MVP award for GinebraSPORTSGolden State Warriors sign Lee to multiyear contract, bring back Chriss Tim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crown Eyeing an encore MOST READ Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award Carlos Edriel Yulo of The Philippines competes on the floor exercise during day nine of the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships at the Aspire Dome on November 2, 2018 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)Carlos Yulo won a historic bronze medal for the Philippines in the 2018 FIG Artistic World Championships Friday at Aspire Academy Dome in Doha, Qatar.The 18-year-old Yulo, the youngest among all participants, bagged the country’s first medal in the world championship.ADVERTISEMENT Artur Dalaloyan is the 2018 Men’s Floor World Champ🥇🥇 Dalaloyan RUS – 14.900🥈Shirai JPN – 14.866🥉Yulo PHI – 14.600 – 1st ever medal!Results 👉 https://t.co/N66JL7iOy6Women’s Vault next @DohaGym2018🎥👉 https://t.co/N66JL7iOy6#DohaGym2018 #GoGymtastic— FIG (@gymnastics) November 2, 2018 Nadine Lustre’s phone stolen in Brazil Allen Durham still determined to help Meralco win 1st PBA title Will you be the first P16 Billion Powerball jackpot winner from the Philippines? Gov’t to employ 6,000 displaced by Taal Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LATEST STORIES Japeth Aguilar embraces role, gets rewarded with Finals MVP plum View comments
LA MIRADA – Vacation security check forms are available at the La Mirada Community Sheriff’s Station. The form gives the Public Safety Team notice that you are on vacation, and a member will visit your home. For more information, call (562) 902-2960. Travel Club hosts barbershop singers WHITTIER – The YMCA Travel Club will meet at 10 a.m. Monday at the Whittier Uptown YMCA, 12510 Hadley Ave. The “A Chordingly Yours” barbershop group will entertain. For more information, call (562) 693-8974. Meeting advocates disaster readiness LAKEWOOD – Rep. Linda Sanchez will hold an emergency preparedness town hall meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Sycamore Plaza, 5000 Clark Avenue. The meeting will bring together experts to advise residents on how to prepare themselves and their families. Expected to be present are Lucille Jones, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and David Dassey, deputy chief of acute communicable disease control for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Toys, food sought for needy families LA MIRADA – The city is seeking unwrapped toys and non-perishable food items. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 16. Items are being collected at: the La Mirada Resource Center, 13710 La Mirada Blvd.; La Mirada Activity Center, 13810 La Mirada Blvd.; Community Gymnasium, 15015 Alicante Road; and the La Mirada Sheriff’s Station, 13710 La Mirada Blvd. For more information, call (562) 902-3160. Methodist church marks 100 years MONTEBELLO – Montebello United Methodist Church, 1220 W. Whittier Blvd., will celebrate its 100th anniversary this weekend. The church will hold a special service at 10 a.m. Sunday featuring the Rev. Mary Ann Swenson, bishop of the Southern California area, followed by a lunch at 11:30 a.m. Everyone is welcome. Tickets are $12. For more information, call (323) 728-8179. Festival of Trees attracts big crowd WHITTIER – Rose Hills Memorial Park’s annual Festival of Trees event raised $8,000 this past weekend for local charities, officials Tuesday. The event, which featured snow provided by snow-blowing machines, sledding, live entertainment, Santa Claus, and decorated trees drew 3,500 people, officials said. Visitors viewed a variety of beautifully decorated Christmas trees sponsored by Los Angeles-area businesses. Reading tutors sought for youths SANTA FE SPRINGS – Volunteers are needed for the Santa Fe Springs Library’s Reading Club, which provides tutors to children, ages 7 to 12, who are having trouble with reading. Children meet in small groups twice a week after school and early evening. Volunteers must attend training meetings from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 17, 29, 24, and 26. For more information, call (562) 698-0450. From Staff Reports AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!