If Passed, ABA Amendment Would Prohibit Discrimination In The Courtroom

The American Bar Association is beginning to take harassment and discrimination in the courtroom more seriously with the possible passing of an Amendment to prohibit such conduct.

Despite being the place to fight harassment and discrimination, the courtroom has actually been one of the last places to ban such conduct. A group, called the National Association of Women Lawyers, is looking to add an Amendment to the ABA's rules of conduct in the legal profession to stop discrimination in the courtroom.

The Amendment, if adopted by the American Bar Associated, would prevent discrimination or harassment in the practice of law based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, marital status, socioeconomic status, disability, or sexual orientation.

If the amendment passes then the punishment would be determined by the state bar associated and could be as small as a fine to as big as suspension from the practice of law.

Currently there are laws prohibiting harassment and discrimination in the workplace, but there aren't any in the courtroom. Employees and applicants are protected from workplace discrimination and under the Equal Pay Act and The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the New York Times, "Typically, women say, they ignore insults or sexist comments for fear of imperiling their careers or being labeled less than a team player." Without protections that this new Amendment would offer against discrimination and harassment, women also find that fighting these sorts of comments to be futile. The article states that women are often called, "honey," or "darling," by male lawyers in the courtroom. Even worse, the article site an example of a minority female attorney who suffered being called and racist an insulting name by the opposing counsel while in court.

The New York Times article states that only 23 states have protections against harassment and discrimination in the courtroom.

This proposal, however, would ban harassment and discrimination in the courtroom and set a standard of conduct for lawyers and legal professionals all across the country.

According to the American Bar website, despite the increasing number of females graduating from law school each year (2016 shows nearly 50% are female), the law is still a male dominated field. In the legal profession women only make up 36% (American Bar, 2016). Women make up an even smaller percentage in Fortune 500 general counsels (19%-24%). The American Bar also shows that women consistently make a smaller salary than men (data from 2004-2014). Additionally, according to the American Bar and the National Association of Women Lawyers and NAWL Foundation, "At the median, the typical female equity partner in the 200 largest firms earn 80% of the compensation earned by the typical male partner."

 

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