April/May 2023 > Inbox


We welcome letters to the editor on issues presented in the magazine. Email letters to wabarnews@wsba.org. All opinions, statements, and conclusions expressed in letters to the editor represent the views of the respective authors and do not necessarily carry the endorsement of the WSBA or its Board of Governors. Publication of letters to the editor is not to be deemed an endorsement of the opinions, statements, and conclusions expressed by the author(s).

RPC 8.4 Unconstitutional?

I read Amanda Stephen’s article on eliminating bias in legal advocacy, though I believe she substitutes her bias for what she claims is the bias of others.

She argues that lawyers can be disciplined for violations of her proposed bias code. This violates the constitutional right of lawyers to freedom of speech, and it may violate the due process rights of criminal defendants, and any civil party as well, to legal proceedings in which their lawyers are not shackled by a speech code. 

The current Rules of Professional Conduct [RPC] provide the basis for her argument that lawyers can be punished for a wide range of speech. RPC 8.4 expansively forbids a lawyer from saying anything that might be interpreted as manifesting bias or prejudice. Rule 3.4 expansively forbids lawyers from saying anything that she or he does not reasonably believe to be relevant. To the author anything that doesn’t comply with her bias code, which includes words like “carceral system” instead of “criminal justice system,” is a basis for a bar punishment.  

I have argued for about 40 years, starting with Seattle-King County bar advisory rules, that Rule 8.4 is unconstitutional.

Criminal lawyers protect the lives of the accused and prosecutors protect the public from those who should be punished. Civil lawyers protect the property and lives of people and institutions from all manner of harm. They are entitled to the full range of protection of the right to freedom of speech. Lawyers do not waive their right to advocate forcefully by carrying a bar card. Probably there are no or few cases because lawyers naturally fear to challenge rules enacted by the judges they practice before, directly or indirectly.

Ms. Stephen proposes an amorphous expansion of RPC 8.4. This is more reason why the Supreme Court should remove RPC 8.4 from the Rules of Professional Conduct. 

Roger Ley, Gresham, OR

Penning Passionate Letters Appreciated

I was disappointed in the drastic shift in tone of the letters to the editor segment of the February 2023 [issue] from the previous edition.

After the high bar was set in dramatic fashion of passionate letters in the Dec. 2022/Jan. 2023 edition (and the letters leading up to it), I nearly changed my first section review from Discipline Notices to Inbox. I hope future letters and segments can match that intensity.

Neil Weiss, Everett

Letters to the editor published in Bar News must respond to content presented in the magazine and also comply with Washington General Rule 12.2 and Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).* Bar News may limit the number of letters published based on available space in a particular issue and, if many letters are received in response to a specific piece in the magazine, may select letters that provide differing viewpoints to publish. Bar News does not publish anonymous letters or more than one letter from the same contributor per issue. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, civility, and grammatical accuracy.
*GR 12.2(c) states that the WSBA is not authorized to “(1) Take positions on issues concerning the politics or social positions of foreign nations; (2) Take positions on political or social issues which do not relate to or affect the practice of law or the administration of justice; or (3) Support or oppose, in an election, candidates for public office.” In Keller v. State Bar of California, the Court ruled that a bar association may not use mandatory member fees to support political or ideological activities that are not reasonably related to the regulation of the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services.

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Furry Friends of Bar News

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