With the flood of comments in opposition, and particularly the fact that the Attorney General of our state felt the need to file not just one but two comments in opposition, the unsuccessful end of the effort to convince the Tennessee Supreme Court to adopt a version of RPC 8.4(g) has felt inevitable for the last month or so.
Yesterday, the inevitable end came in the form of this one-page order from the Tennessee Supreme Court rejecting the petition.
I’m personally very grateful for the handful of entities that lent their support to the TBA/BPR petition which included not just specialty bar associations such as The Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association and the Association for Women Attorneys, but also the Memphis Bar Association, the Knoxville Bar Association, and the Lawrence County Bar Association.
I’m not inclined to spend much space here discussing just how deeply disappointed I am in the outcome. Given that I’m not likely to be the victim of any of the harassment and discrimination we were really aiming to protect against with this proposal, my disappointment is, at best, vicarious. There are other lawyers in Tennessee who this impacts more directly. Lawyers who have been told by many of those who filed comments that they are fair targets for disparagement as long as the lawyer disparaging them is not representing a client.
I wrote more than an 18 months ago about how skeptical I was that a state like Tennessee would adopt a black-letter rule addressing harassment and discrimination. Admittedly, I let myself get a bit too optimistic along the way. I remain convinced that the sentiments expressed by the most strident lawyers (mostly male, and nearly entirely Caucasian) who submitted comments opposing the proposal do not represent the future of our profession in this state even though they prevailed in the present.
If you have the stomach for plowing through knowing that some of them truly serve as only a forum for attorneys who look like me to sound off with typo-filled paeans to a Limbaugh-esque worldview, I will again state that reading through the comments is an educational experience.
If you’d rather not, I can sum up alot of them with the following TL/dr:
“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” – original source to quote a bit unknown as explained here.
3 replies on “A short post-mortem for Tennessee’s proposed RPC 8.4(g)”
When you’re accustomed to safe spaces, free speech feels like oppression. I support gay marriage but reasonable people can differ on whether homosexuality is wrong or gay marriage should be legal. You’d likely benefit from a reading of John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” if you can find the time.
[…] Specifically, earlier this year (more than five months ago in fact), Maine became the second U.S. jurisdiction to adopt a version of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) to seek to address harassment and discrimination related to the practice of law. A neighboring state, Vermont, is the only other state to have done so. Unlike Vermont, however, Maine did not adopt an exact version of the ABA Model Rule. Instead, Maine tweaked it in a few significant ways: (1) the Maine version does not include “marital” or “socioeconomic” status among the grounds for which discrimination is off-limits; (2) the Maine version does not include bar activities or professional social functions within what counts as “related to the practice of law,” and (3) it provides more detailed examples of what amounts to “harassment” and what amounts to “discrimination” under the rule. You may recall that an effort to adopt a modified version of Rule 8.4(g) here in my state of Tennessee failed miserably in 2018. […]
[…] else since. (You might recall it from when I used to write about it Hamilton-style (“non stop“).) It is a good advocacy piece. Probably better than the advocacy pieces that the ABA had […]