Guidelines for Bias-Free Conduct

It is incumbent on all members of the legal profession to promote confidence in the justice system by ensuring that parties, litigants, witnesses, and opposing counsel are treated fairly and without bias. Much of the bias that occurs may be unintentional. Unintentional gender and racial bias should not be underestimated because the unfair effect can be just as devastating as intentional expressions of bias. Many biased practices and procedures exist as a result of habit or tradition. However, whether intentional or unintentional, gender and racial bias must be eliminated if we are to properly apply the principles of fairness, equity, and equality which have been the hallmarks of the legal profession.

The corrosive effects of bias on the administration of justice spread much further and deeper than might appear from first impression. Bias can taint the effectiveness of all participants in the system: parties, judges, attorneys, and witnesses- even the presentation of evidence itself. Bias undermines credibility, weakens positions, decreases confidence, m1d restricts the value of evidence. It emphasizes artificial weaknesses rather than natural strengths and continues outmoded patterns of thought and behavior.

All involved in the legal profession should be aware of and make every effort to adhere to the guidelines for bias-free conduct that follow. These guidelines only address gender and racial bias. However, all bias should be avoided, and these guidelines can be applied equally to them.

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