What Is Resolution 109? The American Bar Association Rule Seeks To Prohibit Sexism
Well it's about time. No, scratch that, this is long overdue: On August 8, the American Bar Association finally passed a rule forbidding sexist language and actions in court. Until now, believe it or not, no such rule existed to protect women lawyers. Instead, the thousands of American women who practice law could at least theoretically fall prey to degrading sexist comments, and could do little to keep such sexism at bay.
The New York Times reported that comments like the ones attorney Laurie Rifkin has endured motivated the National Association of Women Lawyers to advocate for a rule against sexist behavior in court. Rifkin told the New York Times that during a recent case, she was told "Don’t raise your voice at me. It’s not becoming of a woman."
So, yeah, that actually happened, according to Rifkin, and as many other testimonials from women lawyers prove, such comments are not unusual in the court.
This is why it's shocking that the American Bar Association so recently (as in this week) instituted a rule against sexism in court. As USA Today reports, while they are just trying to do their job in court, women lawyers are often patronizingly called "honey" or "sweetheart" by their male counterparts.
According to the Times, 23 states already had rulings against sexist conduct in court. However, it was not until last Monday that the nationally-recognized American Bar Association passed a resolution protecting women lawyers across the country — the new rule is referred to as Resolution 109.
Additionally and importantly, USA Today reported that Resolution 109 does not only protect women. Instead, the American Bar Association ruling states that lawyers may not discriminate against, or harass individuals, on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or gender identity. The ruling clarifies that "Harassment includes sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical conduct." Yup, this rule really didn't exist until Monday.
Of course, many lawyers protested against Resolution 109. According to the Times, those who did so claimed that the resolution would keep them from being able to best speak out on behalf of their clients in court. However, no lawyers at the American Bar Association meeting spoke out against the rule, and the lawyer in charge of the association's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility even stated that the resolution was long overdue: "It is time for the American Bar Association to catch up."
According to a June 2016 study by the American Bar Association, 36 percent of lawyers in America are women — it's about time that a resolution protect these lawyers, though it's upsetting that a ruling had to be made to quell sexism against women in court.