PRP Discusses Bias & Discrimination

The Professional Responsibility Program (PRP) held its Annual Meeting on May 31, 2017.  The meeting took place at Burlington’s Hotel Vermont.  Chief Justice Paul Reiber joined the Board, members of the PRP’s hearing & assistance panels, PRP staff, and several invited guests for a day of seminars and discussion.

The morning’s first seminar used the proposed amendment to Rule 8.4(g) as a launching point into a discussion of bias, discrimination, and legal ethics.  The audience heard from a fantastic panel of Vermont lawyers:

  • Karen Richards, Executive Director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission,
  • Jay Diaz, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Vermont, and,
  • Dan Maguire, President-Elect of the Vermont Bar Association’s Board of Managers

Using real-life experiences and studies on racial & implicit bias, the panel challenged the audience to consider:

  • the biases that can influence hearing & assistance panel members as they sit on cases;
  • the biases that can influences lawyers, witnesses, judges, and jurors; and,
  • whether Rules 1.1 and 1.3 impose a duty to advise a client on the biases that can influence lawyers, witnesses, judges, and jurors involved in the client’s matter.

After hearing from the panel, many in the audience urged the Board to support the proposed amendment to Rule 8.4 and to commit the PRP to continue as part of the larger effort to educate on the topic of implicit bias.

Karen, Jay, and Dan – thank you so much for sharing your time, thoughts, and expertise with members of the PRP!