HOMOPHOBIC SLURS NOT PERMISSIBLE IN LEGAL ADVOCACY
For all of the criticism that it takes, the legal profession generally does an outstanding job of policing its own. In Indiana, for instance, we have a standing disciplinary commission with a full-time executive director in place to investigate any claims of unethical or improper conduct by attorneys. Claims of misconduct are thoroughly and seriously investigated, and stern disciplinary measures, including suspension or disbarment, are meted out to those found to be in violation of the rules of professional responsibility.
Even in dealing with someone in what might be considered to be a personal setting, an attorney must be careful not to run afoul of the rules. A good example of this recently occurred when an Indianapolis attorney received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court for the way in which she dealt with a collector who was making harassing phone calls to her home.
According to the court's order, the attorney began receiving persistent messages on her unlisted phone number from a company asking for someone by the name of her husband. The attorney called the toll-free number back and spoke with a male representative. She identified her husband as her client. She perceived the representative to have a "feminine-sounding voice," and she then asked him if he was "gay" or "sweet." The company representative commented on the unprofessional nature of the question, and the phone conversation ended abruptly. A complaint was then made to the disciplinary commission about the lawyer's conduct.
Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 8.4 (g) prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct, in a professional capacity, that manifests bias or prejudice based on sexual orientation. The attorney was found to be in violation of this rule and, accordingly, was publicly reprimanded by our highest court.