American Bar Association Votes To Prohibit Calling Women "Honey" or "Darling" In Court

Posted: Aug 10, 2016 8:30 AM

The American Bar Association voted on Monday topenalize lawyers who refer to women in the courtroom as "honey" or "darling." This was in response to complaints of sexism by female lawyers. Several states already had similar laws prohibiting harassment on the books, but this is a new, nationwide policy.

To address objections by litigators who argued that the change could hinder vigorous representation of clients, the drafters added qualifiers. The amended ethics rule now bans the offensive conduct only if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know it is harassment or discrimination, and does not apply to “legitimate” legal advice or advocacy. That gives offenders some wiggle room to contend that they did not know their conduct or remarks were prohibited.

The guidance that comes with the rule, however, defines discrimination as “harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice toward others.”

Penalties for harassment will be determined by state bar associations.