Las Vegas Sun

October 4, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Return to civil discourse is ironic

How ironic. Justice Anthony Kennedy in a speech to Nevada lawyers and judges urges a return to civil discourse.

The U.S. Supreme Court itself started legal discourse on the slippery slope to indecent years ago.

In 1983, North Dakota attorney Robert J. Snyder was appointed to represent a criminal defendant in federal district court. A judge’s secretary wrote to Snyder about correcting some forms to pay for indigent defense work. Snyder took umbrage at the low rate of pay and the request to re-do the forms and wrote back, essentially telling her what she could do with the forms.

Judge Donald Lay, the chief judge of the Eighth Circuit, got involved, and Snyder was suspended from practicing in the circuit for unprofessional conduct. In those days, there were rules for lawyers who practiced before courts.

Snyder appealed and the Supreme Court sided with him, essentially holding that he had a constitutional free speech right to be a rude jerk.

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