Carlson addresses Jackson Young Lawyers Association

July 18, 2003

Supreme Court Justice George C. Carlson Jr. in a noon speech to Jackson lawyers on Friday urged them to shun a "whatever it takes to win" attitude, and to deal with each other with professionalism and civility.

Carlson, speaking to the Jackson Young Lawyers Association, said, "I have seen through the years as a trial judge, an evolution in the courtroom practice of law from a courteous, ethical, civil type environment among lawyers to a 'win at all cost' Rambo type attitude."

"The reason most often given by lawyers in utilizing this type technique is that such conduct on their part is expected by their clients, who want to do whatever it takes to win, or to force a settlement," Carlson said. "Unfortunately, it then becomes the responsibility of the trial judge to sanction lawyers and/or parties according the applicable rules and statutes."

Carlson, of Batesville, said, "I would implore you to always conduct yourself in an ethical, professional, civil manner."

Carlson reminded the group of the Lawyers Creed, a conduct model built on reverence for the law and the legal profession and adherence to principles of civility, cooperativeness, dignity, integrity and fair play. Carlson, who spent 19 years as a trial judge in the 17th Circuit Court District of DeSoto, Panola, Tallahatchie, Tate and Yalobusha counties, said he sometimes forced disagreeable lawyers to sign an "affidavit of civility" based on the Lawyers Creed.

Speaking about his 21 months of work at the Supreme Court, Carlson said, " Upon arriving at the Court in November 2001, I was told on more than one occasion that as a trial judge, I was used to being the boss and whatever I said was it, but now, whenever I spoke, and expressed an opinion on a case, I had to have at least four other judges to back me up."

Carlson said, "I dare say that as you get on our website every Thursday and check out our decisions, you most likely will rarely see a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court. In fact, you will see many 5-4 and 6-3 decisions."

Carlson said, "I'm certainly aware of the fact that you know from media accounts that the Supreme Court of Mississippi is under the microscope. But I'm here to tell you that despite all that is going on, your court, the citizens' court, continues to do good work. While I don't expect you to agree with all our decisions - and I can assure you that as a circuit judge, I did not agree with all the Supreme Court decisions, and don't agree with all of them now - I do believe that for the most part, the decisions are sound and grounded in the law."

Carlson said Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman has led efforts to change court rules to improve the legal profession and the judiciary. Carlson serves on the court's Rules Committee.

One of those rules changes, dealing with the practice of law by out of state attorneys, has imposed a fee that has generated more than $66,000 for civil representation of the poor. Carlson at 4:30 p.m. Friday will participate in a ceremony in Oxford to present a check for $13,000 to North Mississippi Rural Legal Services. The check is partial payment of what will be a total of $21,840 to the office which provides legal services to poor people in a 39-county area.

Carlson applauded the work of people like former Mississippi Bar president Alex Alston of Jackson, who will chair the private, non-profit Equal Justice Foundation to raise private funds and find other resources to assist with legal representation of the poor.

"I encourage you to also get involved," Carlson said.