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Standards of Civility
For Proceedings Before The Workers' Compensation Board


Introduction

The New York State Standards of Civility, promulgated by the Office of Court Administration for the legal profession, set forth principles of behavior to which the bar, the bench and court employees should aspire. The Preamble to the Standards states that

They are not intended as rules to be enforced by sanction or disciplinary action, nor are they intended to supplement or modify the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct, the Code of Professional Responsibility and its Disciplinary Rules, or any other applicable rule or requirement governing conduct. Instead they are a set of guidelines intended to encourage lawyers, judges and court personnel to observe principles of civility and decorum, and to confirm the legal profession's rightful status as an honorable and respected profession where courtesy and civility are observed as a matter of course.

The Workers' Compensation Board believes that such standards and principles of courtesy, respect and civility have equal meaning and application to administrative adjudicatory proceedings. Accordingly, the Board has adopted the Standards of Civility, as modified to reflect the Board's procedures, to "encourage the parties in interest, lawyers, licensed representatives, Board members, Workers' Compensation Law Judges, conciliators, and other Board personnel to observe principles of civility and decorum in the conduct of administrative hearings, meetings or other proceedings before the Board."


Lawyers' and Licensed Representatives' Duties to Other Lawyers, Licensed Representatives, Parties and Witnesses

  1. Lawyers and licensed representatives should be courteous and civil in all professional dealings with other persons.
    1. Act in a civil manner regardless of the ill feelings that their clients may have toward others.
    2. Disagree without being disagreeable. Effective representation does not require antagonistic or acrimonious behavior. Whether orally or in writing, avoid vulgar language, disparaging personal remarks or acrimony toward other representatives, parties or witnesses.
    3. Require that persons under your supervision conduct themselves with courtesy and civility.
  2. When consistent with their clients' interests, lawyers and licensed representatives should cooperate with opposing counsel/representative in an effort to avoid litigation and to resolve litigation that has already commenced.
    1. Avoid unnecessary hearings by negotiating and agreeing with other counsel/representative whenever it is practicable to do so.
    2. Allow sufficient time to resolve any dispute or disagreement by communicating with one another and imposing reasonable and meaningful deadlines in light of the nature and status of the case.
  3. Lawyers or licensed representatives should respect the schedule and commitments of opposing counsel/representative, consistent with protection of their clients' interests.
    1. Agree to reasonable requests for extensions of time or for waiver of procedural formalities when the legitimate interests of the client will not be adversely affected.
    2. Consult with other counsel/representative regarding scheduling matters in a good faith effort to avoid scheduling conflicts. Cooperate with opposing counsel/representative when scheduling changes are requested, provided the interests of his or her client will not be jeopardized.
    3. Notify other counsel/representative and, if appropriate, the Board or other persons at the earliest possible time when hearings, depositions, meetings or conferences are to be canceled or postponed.
  4. Lawyers or licensed representatives should promptly return telephone calls and answer correspondence reasonably requiring a response.
  5. The timing and manner of service of papers should not be designed to cause disadvantage to the party receiving the papers.
    1. Papers should not be served in a manner designed to take advantage of an opponent's known absence from the office.
    2. Papers should not be served at a time or in a manner designed to inconvenience an adversary.
    3. Unless specifically authorized by law or rule, a lawyer or licensed representative should not submit papers to the Board without serving copies of all such papers upon opposing counsel/representative in such a manner that opposing counsel/representative will receive them before or contemporaneously with the submission to the Board.
  6. Lawyers or licensed representatives should not use any aspect of the claims/adjudicatory process, including discovery and motion practice, as a means of harassment or for the purpose of unnecessarily prolonging litigation or increasing litigation expenses.
    1. Avoid discovery that is not necessary to obtain facts or perpetuate testimony or that is designed to place an undue burden or expense on a party.
    2. Respond to discovery requests reasonably and not strain to interpret the request so as to avoid disclosure of relevant and nonprivileged information.
  7. In depositions and other proceedings, and in negotiations, lawyers and licensed representatives should conduct themselves with dignity and refrain from engaging in acts of rudeness and disrespect.
    1. Do not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be appropriate in the presence of a judge/commissioner.
    2. Advise clients and witnesses of the proper conduct expected of them at the Board, at depositions and at conferences, and, to the best of their ability, prevent clients and witnesses from causing disorder or disruption.
    3. Do not obstruct questioning during a deposition or object to deposition questions unless necessary.
    4. Ask only those questions believed reasonably necessary for the prosecution or defense of a claim. Refrain from asking repetitive or argumentative questions and from making self-serving statements.
  8. Lawyers or licensed representatives should adhere to all express promises and agreements with other counsel/representative, whether oral or in writing.
  9. Lawyers and licensed representatives should not mislead other persons involved in the claims/adjudicatory process.
    1. Do not falsely hold out the possibility of settlement as a means for adjourning discovery or delaying trial.
    2. Do not ascribe a position to another counsel/representative that counsel/representative has not taken or otherwise seek to create an unjustified inference based on counsel's/representative's statements or conduct.
    3. Written versions of agreements and Board orders should correctly reflect the agreement of the parties or the direction of the Board.
  10. Lawyers should be mindful of the need to protect the standing of the legal profession in the eyes of the public. Accordingly, lawyers should bring the New York State Standards of Civility to the attention of other lawyers when appropriate.

    Licensed representatives should conduct themselves in the same orderly manner as is required of lawyers in courts of law, and should bring the New York State Standards of Civility to the attention of other licensed representatives when appropriate.

Lawyers' and Licensed Representatives' Duties to the Board and Board Personnel

  1. A lawyer is both an officer of the court and an advocate. As such, the lawyer should always strive to uphold the honor and dignity of the profession, avoid disorder and disruption in a Board proceeding, and maintain a respectful attitude toward the Board.

    Licensed representatives should conduct themselves at all times in the same orderly manner as is required of lawyers in the courts of law. [12 NYCRR 302-2.2(a)].
    1. Speak and write civilly and respectfully in all communications with the Board and Board personnel.
    2. Use best effort to dissuade clients and witnesses from causing disorder or disruption in the Board proceeding.
    3. Do not engage in conduct intended primarily to harass or humiliate witnesses.
    4. Be punctual and prepared for all Board appearances; if delayed, notify the Board and counsel/representative whenever possible.
  2. Board personnel are an integral part of the claims resolution and adjudication process and should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.

Workers' Compensation Law Judges', Conciliators' and Commissioners' Duties to Lawyers, Licensed Representatives, Parties and Witnesses

  1. Judges/Conciliators/Commissioners should be patient, courteous and civil to lawyers, licensed representatives, parties and witnesses.
    1. Maintain control over the proceedings and insure that they are conducted in a civil manner.
    2. Do not employ hostile, demeaning or humiliating words in opinions or in written or oral communications with lawyers, licensed representatives, parties or witnesses.
    3. To the extent consistent with the efficient conduct of litigation and other demands on the Board, be considerate of the schedules of lawyers, licensed representatives, parties and witnesses when scheduling hearings, meetings or conferences.
    4. Be punctual in convening all trials, hearings, meetings and conferences; if delayed, notify counsel/representative when possible.
    5. Make all reasonable effort to decide promptly all matters presented for decision.
    6. Use best effort to insure that Board personnel under your direction act civilly toward lawyers, licensed representatives, parties and witnesses.

Duties of Board Personnel to the Board, Lawyers, Licensed Representatives and Parties

  1. Board personnel should be courteous, patient and respectful while providing prompt, efficient and helpful service to all persons having business with the Board.
    1. Respond promptly and helpfully to requests for assistance or information.
    2. Respect the judge's/conciliator's/commissioner's directions concerning the procedures and atmosphere that the judge/conciliator/commissioner wishes to maintain in his or her proceeding.