Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Civility Orders

Attorney Regulation Counsel, Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel


Even before recent world events, professionalism generally and civility specifically were important topic in the legal profession. Now, with additional life stressors brought about by COVID-19, these topics remains front and center, while lawyers, judges and the public try to navigate the practice of law and the court system amid heightened stress.


Courts are taking a leading role in conveying expectations regarding professionalism and civility, many by issuing civility orders or including civility provisions in standard pretrial orders. These provisions can help get the attention of lawyers and provide a tool for conversations in and outside the courtroom about basic civil conduct.


The Chief Judges in the 12th Judicial District and the 20th Judicial District have both issued administrative orders that address civility and convey expectations regarding conduct. Administrative Order 19-103 from the 20th is directed to all court visitors, including attorneys, and focuses specifically on harassing conduct. Administrative Order 2020-01 from the 12th is focused specifically on attorney conduct and includes similar language to a sample form civility order available to judges statewide.


In some cases, judges include language regarding civility in a stand-alone order, such as pretrial orders.


Denver District Court Judge Robert L. McGahey includes the following language in his pretrial order:


“This is a CIVIL division.  “Rambo lawyering” will not be tolerated.  Counsel will treat jurors, parties, witnesses, me, my staff, and each other with professionalism, courtesy and respect at all times.  This applies not only to the actual trial, but to all aspects of the case, including discovery and motions practice, and includes what is written as well as what is said.”

Denver District Court Judge J. Eric Elliff addresses civility throughout multiple provisions of his pretrial order, and also includes the following specific provision, which he credits to federal Judge Brooke Jackson.

“C.  Miscellaneous

Try to have fun and enjoy the practice of law.  Vigorous advocacy is admirable, but you can zealously represent your client while cooperating with each other…”

          Denver District Court Judge Martin Egelhoff includes the following provision at the beginning of his pretrial order:

I.          CIVILITY


This Court is, first and foremost, a civil court.  In accordance with the Preamble to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are not only representatives of clients, but are also officers of the legal system and public citizens having special responsibility for the quality of justice.  Preamble [1].  Attorneys may not use the law’s procedures for illegitimate purposes or to harass or intimidate others.  Preamble [5].  Attorneys are expected to demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials.  Preamble [5].

The Court therefore expects civility among counsel at all times, both in and outside of the courtroom.  The Court will not tolerate rudeness, aggressive tactics, or personal attacks in the course of the case.  Counsel and parties are expected to treat the Court, opposing counsel, parties, witnesses, jurors and the court staff with courtesy and respect at all times.  This applies to all conduct and communications, verbal and nonverbal, written and oral, in and out of the courtroom.  Attempts to harass and/or intimidate by threatening to seek sanctions are contrary to the Preamble of the Rules of Professional Conduct and will not be tolerated.

Expressions of opinion that tend to denigrate another’s integrity are not persuasive, will not be well-received, and are more likely to reflect more negatively on the author than on the object of the remark.  Adjectives, both in written pleadings and oral communications, should be used sparingly and never in a manner that maligns, denigrates, or otherwise attacks opposing counsel. 

The Court will address conduct that is contrary to this order and apply enforcement mechanisms as necessary.”

To remind lawyers of the expectation of professionalism, the 3rd Judicial District has posted in every courtroom the CBA/DBA Professionalism Coordinating Council’s definition of Professionalism, which states:

Professionalism is conduct reflecting the values embodied in the Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission, the Colorado Principles of Professionalism, and the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.  These values require attorneys always to act competently, civilly, and with integrity and to commit themselves to the public good and to furthering the interests of justice.

While unprofessional conduct may implicate the Rules of Professional Conduct, it will almost always impact a lawyer’s reputation.  Even if you are not yet subject to a civility order or are rarely in court, it’s helpful to consider the expectations these orders convey when reflecting on civility and professionalism in your own practice.