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On learning that the Arkansas Supreme Court will begin exacting a promise from lawyers to act right, a layman's first thought is "too little, too late." But the longest journey begins with a single step, it's said, and that step deserves commendation. The Court has added a pledge of civility to the Attorney Oath of Admission: "I will maintain the respect and courtesy due to courts of justice, judicial officers, and those who assist them. To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications." (The oath already includes promises to support the U.S. and Arkansas constitutions, to advance the cause of justice, to refrain from robbing clients, etc.) The Court is, in effect, asking lawyers to be more like journalists. It's a high standard, and yet we've seen a few lawyers who were unfailingly nice, even when facing the most uncivil opposition. Barack Obama, for one. Bill Clinton, for another. Their greatest success came in the political arena, though. Their civility might have been more severely tested in the rough-and-tumble of the courtroom.

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