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How far can an Attorney go when it comes to demeaning me and insulting me during court?

Hanford, CA |
Filed under: Professional ethics

I represent myself as I have no money. I have done this for quite some time, and it works for me (as best as it can, I suppose). However, his attorney is a mean (evil you could say) man who many times I feel crosses the line. In 2011 I expressed to the Commissioner that I did not appreciate the way I was being talked to by Mr. So-in-so. She told him something along the lines of, "Mr. So-in-so, please be aware of how you address Ms. So-in-so" or something along those lines.

In short, we have a court date next week. I have moved out of state and will be appearing by phone, but I need to know what to say and when to say it. He tries to be very intimidating, which I understand, but he crosses the line, and I'd like to know "legally" or "ethically" what that line is.

Thank you.

Attorney Answers 3


Even attorneys have to deal with overly zealous attorneys at times. It does not sound like this attorney is doing anything unethical or at least you won't be able to prove it. He owes you no duties, as if he were your own attorney. I agree that you can stand up to him, or just ignore what the attorney is saying and have confidence in your own position and skills. Good luck.

I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case. No attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use reading of this response on Avvo. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this response.

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The judge in the courtroom is your ally and will will determine what is over the line.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

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This is a fairly loaded/biased question, but the short answer is that what you call "demeaning" or "bullying" another lawyer may consider "zealous advocacy." While those sorts of determinations are up to the arbiter of your dispute (and, ultimately, an ethics board if you file a complaint), understand that very few legal issues have bright line, black-letter rules, including this one, so it's impossible for me (or any other lawyer) to tell you exactly where the line is. (Not to mention, there's an infinite number of things any person could say, so to run through all the iterations is an exercise in futility).

The simple answer is say something to him. Bullies don't like people who stand up for themselves. If that doesn't work, send a golden rule letter to him, certified mail. If that doesn't work, say something to the judge, and if that doesn't work, file an ethics complaint. Do all of this in writing. I think you'll find that following the process generally works.

I can be reached at (913) 735-9320. These answers do not constitute legal advice, because legal advice is paid for. These answers are, instead, practical suggestions for dealing with legal problems, and provided for informational purposes as a free public service. Any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. Since suggestions to legal questions are usually fact-dependent; my answers are general and based on the facts as you describe them and necessarily includes assumptions. More specific answers can be provided only after researching the appropriate law and a comprehensive consultation in which all relevant facts are disclosed. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Until both a retainer agreement is executed and we have a consultation, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Moreover, I cannot be your attorney unless you are located in Missouri, the only state in which I am licensed. If you are not in Missouri, please consult an attorney in your state for assistance, as my advice may be incorrect or incomplete.

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Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland


I thought yours was a very interesting answer, with both some subtle answers and direct practical advice. I also had not seen the phrase "zealous advocacy" in years and thought how the meaning for me has changed over the years.

John Joseph Westerhaus

John Joseph Westerhaus


Thank you very much, Mr. Doland! I appreciate that other lawyers value my analysis, considering how little the askers seem to enjoy being given an answer different from that which they expected or wanted. :) Thanks again!

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