Twenty-three lawyers gathered at the Liberty County Justice Center on Wednesday for an oath renewal ceremony.
Katie Smith, president of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit Bar Association, said the ceremony commemorated Law Day.
“Law Day happens to fall on May 1, so associations try to do a legal activity in the month of May to just show our commitment to the field and our commitment to our community,” Smith explained.
Attorneys from across the circuit, which covers Liberty, Long, Tattnall, Bryan, Evans and McIntosh counties, assembled in a courtroom of the Justice Center. Before the ceremony, the lawyers mingled and chatted, obviously pleased to see one another in a non-judicial setting.
Hugh McCullough, a former president of the circuit’s bar, was the first speaker. He is serving his third term as state court judge of Tattnall County.
McCullough spoke about professionalism among attorneys.
“We do not have jobs, we are in a profession,” McCullough said. “We have answered a higher calling. At least, that’s how I like to think of it.”
McCullough said lawyers are “obligated not only to advocate for our clients, and to do so zealously,” but they also have an obligation to the profession.
“Look at the attorney’s oath,” he continued. “The oath is not to the court. It’s not to the clients we represent. It’s to the profession.”
Smith then introduced Paul Rose, who has served as a superior court judge in the circuit since 1999.
Rose’s message was one of “civility among lawyers.” He said that attorneys’ jobs are tough, representing clients going through emotionally-taxing ordeals.
“As tough as that is, take the extra measure and be respectful and courteous to opposing council,” Rose said. “Their job is just as tough as yours is.”
The judge said incivility in court is not an issue in Georgia, but it has become a problem in other states.
“The state of Florida has amended their attorney’s oath to include a specific pledge of civility to opposing parties and council,” he said. “The supreme court of Florida has issued some suspensions of lawyers who have violated that principle.
Following his remarks, Rose called the attorneys to their feet and led them in the oath: “I swear that I will truly and honestly, justly and uprightly conduct myself as a member of this learned profession and in accordance with the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, as an attorney and counselor and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Georgia. So help me God.”
Rose then dismissed the group, and Smith directed them to a reception.
Though all the attorneys who participated are already practicing, Smith said the ceremony was a way to recommit themselves to the law.
“It’s like renewing your wedding vows,” she said. “You don’t have to do it; it’s just a way to symbolically show the community and the profession that you’re still committed.”