ChesterNewMatterSummer2017 - 30

The Blank Page
By Mark Blank, Jr., Esquire

Civility et al.

was admitted to the Chester County Bar in 1976, June 3rd,
to be exact. On that day, I appeared before the Honorable
Thomas A. Pitt, Jr. in Courtroom Three of the old Chester
County Courthouse. Alexander Clark, the Prothonotary,
administered the Oath. Then Judge Pitt lectured me in his
usual eloquent style. Among other things, he explained
that there is (was) a custom of courtesy and civility among
members of the Bar of Chester County, and that I was expected
to be a gentleman at all times in my practice. After his speech,
he delivered his congratulations and welcomed me.
The following November, the first Admission Ceremony
for new lawyers was held in Courtroom One with the entire
Chester County Bench present. I was there and I moved for
the admission of a law school classmate.
John S. Halsted, Esquire, then President of the Chester
County Bar Association, delivered the address. Again, he
made reference to the tradition of courtesy that Chester
County lawyers had enjoyed over the years, "unlike our
neighbors to the east" (presumably referring to Philadelphia).
In Boughton v. Boughton, 28 Ches. Co. Rep. 489 (1980),
Judge Robert S. Gawthrop, III, opined: "...[counsel should
follow] local customs of courtesy or practice... We believe that
Plaintiff 's counsel's [conduct, in this instance] did not measure
up to the customs and courtesy of the Chester County Bar,
even under the pressures of practice in 1980". Id., 492.
In Corkel v. Gaebel, 30 Ches. Co. Rep. 45 (1982), in opening
a "snap judgment", Judge Gawthrop cited Boughton and stated:
"This Bar has long been justifiably proud of its customs and
tradition, its professional courtesies. We decline to be an
accessory to their modern-day erosion." Corkel v. Gabel, 47.

30 | New Matter

And in Richards v. Heffner, 34 Ches. Co. Rep. 361 (1986),
Judge Lawrence E. Wood commented: "We are aware of a
custom which obliges counsel to extend to one another the
courtesy of a telephone call before lodging a judgment by
default". (Emphasis added). [The Court held the judgment to
be opened on other grounds.] Heffner, 362.
Alright, so there was a custom of courtesy and civility in
the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, and perhaps it has been eroded
over the years, with the growth of Chester County and the
number of lawyers that have hung out shingles within its
borders. Fred T. Cadmus, III, Esquire, used to introduce
himself, "Fred Cadmus, Country Lawyer." And yes, Chester
County was primarily country and small town. But no more.
Chester County now is mostly metropolis and suburbs.
Moreover, when this writer was admitted to the Bar, there
were 200 members of the Chester County Bar Association.
In 1980, there were roughly 330. Now there are over 1,000
members of the Bar Association, and probably another 2,500
lawyers in Chester County that are not members of the Bar
Association, and thus cannot be accounted for. Moreover,
two new generations of lawyers have evolved since this writer
was admitted to practice. (In the 1970s and even the 1980s,
it was a custom (if not a rule) that every lawyer with his/her
feet planted on Chester County soil, must be a member of the
Chester County Bar Association.)
The practice of law is stressful enough as it is. I have been
reprimanded by clients for being too courteous to opposing
counsel, and have been taken advantage of by opposing
counsel as the result of my own civility. Nevertheless, I would
like to believe that the custom of courtesy et al. still exists. To
this writer, it is much more important than your client's wishes
or the behavior of other lawyers. This is the Bar of Chester
County; let us preserve its important traditions.

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