NCAJ In Favor Of Adding Anti-Discrimination Language To State Bar RPC

July 23, 2020

NCAJ supports adding anti-discrimination language to the North Carolina State Bar’s Rules of Professional Responsibility, an issue the State Bar’s Ethics Committee addressed during a special meeting today.

The State Bar is considering adding anti-discrimination language in three contexts: as a change to the preamble, as adoption of Model Rule 8.4(d), and as a proposed comment to Rule 1.1 (Competency) on awareness of implicit bias and cultural competency.

During Thursday’s meeting, the committee voted 23-5 that a proposed change to the preamble be published for comment. State Bar Councilors will review that decision at their meeting tomorrow. As for a potential rule or comment to the rule change, the Ethics Committee suggested employing a subcommittee to study the issue of whether to amend Rule 8.4(d). After a unanimous vote to study a rule change, Ethics Committee Chair David Allen indicated that he will accept recommendations of Ethics Committee members to serve on the subcommittee. Regarding a potential comment to Rule 1.1, the Ethics Committee suggested employing a separate subcommittee to study the issue. The committee voted unanimously to move forward with appointing a subcommittee.

On Tuesday, the NCAJ President David Henson sent a letter to Allen expressing NCAJ’s support for a change to the preamble and requesting that the Ethics Committee appoint a subcommittee to study the issue of whether to adopt ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) or some version thereof. Read the letter here.

The language currently under consideration reads:

While employed or engaged in a professional capacity, a lawyer should not discriminate on the basis of a person’s race, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status. This responsibility of non-discrimination does not limit a lawyer’s right to advocate on any issue, nor does this responsibility limit the prerogative of a lawyer to accept, decline, or withdraw from a representation in accordance with these rules.

This proposed change is similar to a 2009 proposed amendment that the NCAJ endorsed at that time. The 2009 amendment was not adopted.

As the discussion moves forward, NCAJ will develop an internal working group led by Stewart Poisson as the Diversity Officer and Sonya Pfeiffer as the Legal Affairs VP. Executive Director Kim Crouch welcomes suggestions for members to participate in the working group. Email her at

On a separate but related note, a subcommittee of the NC State Bar Board of Continuing Legal Education is currently studying amending the MCLE rules to add anti-discrimination and/or diversity training to the annual CLE requirements. NCAJ will send a letter to the chair of the Board of CLE to encourage more study on this important issue.

To submit comments about State Bar Ethics proposals, email