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American Bar Association Has Banned Sexist Language in Court
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Photo courtesy of Law Sarasota.

Photo courtesy of Law Sarasota.

Summary: The American Bar Association has amended its rules to ban sexist language in the courtroom.

While some people don’t intend words like “honey” or “sweetie” to be put downs, they often are deemed to be diminishing to women in a professional setting. To fix this problem, The American Bar Association has altered its professional code of conduct to ban that kind of language in court. According to a proposed rule, any lawyer who uses sexist language may face punishment.


USA Today reports that on Monday, the ABA revised an ethics rule stating lawyers cannot make comments based on things such as race, sex, religion, or socioeconomic status. The rule has been adopted by over twenty state bars, and it is up to individual states to determine punishments.

Linda Bray Chanow, the executive director for the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas, said women are continually harassed and disrespected in the legal field.

“We are part of the system of justice. If we are acting in a discriminatory manner, what does that mean to the people we are working on behalf of and working to protect?” said Chanow.

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Attorney Patricia Gillette said that white men mostly hold all the positions of power so it is not uncommon to hear them call a female lawyer, “honey, sweetheart, or dear.” She said that she had witnessed men avoiding looking at female colleagues or speaking over them. She said that male lawyers do not face the same struggles as women.

“When a young woman goes up against an older white man, he will use behavior that tries to put down that woman and assume she isn’t going to be as powerful or competent as if she was a man,” Gillette said.

David Zarfes of University of Chicago Law School agreed that the rule was needed. To anyone who says this rule violates free speech, he had this to say:

“I think for adults practicing law, it’s pretty clear you shouldn’t use demeaning phrases,” Zarfes said.

What do you think of the ABA’s new rule? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: USA Today


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