submitted by Jonathan Hafen, UCLI CLE Chair
On October 4, 2019, UCLI held its big CLE kickoff event and unveiled the UCLI Certification Program at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. Over 200 leaders from the Utah legal community, including over 30 state and federal court judges, the Utah Bar President, and the Utah Attorney General, attended a fascinating three hour Continuing Legal Education (CLE) presentation by a nationally-recognized judicial trainer, Kimberly Papillon, on the topic of Neuroscience of Decision Making in Leadership: Meaningful Updates and Concrete Solutions.
Ms. Papillon’s presentation addressed how and why our brains develop cognitive biases and how such biases can affect moral intuitions and ethical decisions with respect to our treatment of employees, colleagues, clients, defendants, witnesses, and others we encounter in the legal profession. Ms. Papillon also provided the attendees with strategies for combatting biases, becoming more inclusive, and ensuring that ethical approaches are applied in the workplace and other environments.
Utah Rules of Professional Conduct recognize that elimination and interruption of bias in the legal profession is central to our ability to ethically apply the law and serve our community. Rule 8.4 specifically prohibits attorneys from engaging in “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” The comment to Rule 8.4 further explains that this includes attorneys who “knowingly manifest by words or conduct bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status….when such actions are prejudicial to the administration of justice.” See cmt. to Utah R. Prof. Conduct, Rule 8.4 (Dec. 19, 2018) (emphasis added).
Rule 2.3 of Canon 2 of the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct similarly provides that “[a] judge shall perform the duties of judicial office, including administrative duties, without bias or prejudice…. [and that a] judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.” (emphasis added).
Ms. Papillon also focused on retention and advancement challenges that legal employers encounter with respect to women and diverse attorneys, and she discussed creative solutions to tackling the challenges and effecting change from the top down in our legal institutions. Judge Robert J. Shelby of the United States District Court for the District of Utah then addressed the attendees and spoke of the importance of engaging our diverse populations in the legal profession and eliminating bias in our administration of justice.
Following the presentation, the guests attended UCLI’s Leadership Reception where the Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Petersen and Utah Bar President Herm Olsen gave remarks about UCLI’s mission and programs. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that his office would be the first to enroll in the UCLI 2020 Certification Program and expressed the commitment of the AG’s Office to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
UCLI thanks Anne Morgan, Judge Shelby, Judge Nuffer and the federal court staff for hosting this important event. UCLI also thanks our co-hosts the Federal Bar Association and the Women Lawyers of Utah, and our generous sponsors for making this event possible.