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We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

By: David Donovan//January 6, 2016

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

By: David Donovan//January 6, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has some New Year’s resolutions he’d like all attorneys to work on in 2016.

In his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary, Roberts highlighted the changes to the federal Rules of Civil Procedure that took effect Dec. 1 and called on attorneys to engineer a change in the country’s legal culture to promote the public’s interest in speedy and efficient justice.

As reported by Lawyers Weekly last month, the significant new changes to the federal rules are designed to oblige judges and lawyers to work cooperatively to control the expense and time demands of litigation. Roberts wrote that he thought the federal judiciary has gotten off to a good start toward that end, but acknowledged that this vision will require a genuine commitment from lawyers and judges.

“I cannot believe that many members of the bar went to law school because of a burning desire to spend their professional life wearing down opponents with creatively burdensome discovery requests or evading legitimate requests through dilatory tactics,” Roberts wrote.

Roberts noted that many judges before him have tried and failed to cajole better behavior out of the bar, but said that he was “motivated to address the subject now because the 2015 civil rules amendments provide a concrete opportunity for actually getting something done.” The merits of those amendments have inspired healthy debate, but Roberts’ sentiments are certainly commendable.

As a measure of the advances civility has already made in American dispute resolution, Roberts’ report doubles as a surprisingly comprehensive history of dueling. The address starts by quoting a former South Carolina governor, John Lyde Wilson, who apparently penned the authoritative guide on dueling in 1838, a treatise now, fortunately, obsolete.

Put in that context, onerous interrogatories perhaps sound slightly less awful. But alongside those vows to exercise more and eat better, here’s one resolution that would certainly be worth keeping.

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