Supreme Court spotlights civility as a hallmark of W.Va. legal profession

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has completed a change aimed at raising the bar on attorney and judicial behavior in the Mountain State. Chief Justice Evan Jenkins, flanked by his four colleagues on the high court, signed an order provisionally adopting and releasing for public comment the addition of a civility pledge to the oath lawyers take when they are admitted to the practice of law.

“West Virginia’s judiciary wants to be a leader and the leadership here is in promoting civility. You can look across the country and around the world that we need a very healthy dose of civility today,” said Justice Jenkins.

The high court made the move after close consultation with the West Virginia State Bar and the West Virginia Board of Law Examiners.

All five members of the Supreme Court along with State Bar President Tom Scarr and Board of Law Examiner’s President Jason Pizatella were the first to take the oath Monday, administered by the Clerk of the Supreme Court.

“Lawyers are required to zealously advocate for their clients, but part of ‘zealously advocate’ does not mean a scorched earth policy in terms of the parties on the other side,” said Justice John Hutchinson.

Each practicing attorney in West Virginia begins their career in the Supreme Court chamber in Charleston by taking the oath before the Supreme Court. Justice Beth Walker believed adding a civility pledge into that oath was an adaptation whose time has come.

“One of the hallmarks of the new court has been a deep commitment to civility, a deep commitment to rule of law, and a deep commitment to treating each other and those who appear before us with respect, civility, and fairness. We’re moving that action into words,” she explained.

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