WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said yesterday that lawyers should not resort to "Rambo-style tactics" to win cases.
O'Connor said she is concerned that the confrontational tactics, which she likened to those of actor Sylvester Stallone's fictional renegade war hero John Rambo, are contributing to a decline in professionalism and to public dissatisfaction with the legal system.
"We don't need to look at legal arguments as a battle or a siege," she said in an address to more than 2,000 people at Wake Forest University. "It's better to use our energy working on a case rather than working over an opponent."
O'Connor called for new ways to resolve disputes without a trial. She also criticized the discovery process, which allows lawyers on opposing sides to exchange information before a trial. She said it leads to confrontation.
"I suspect that if opposing lawyers were to calculate for their clients how much they could save by limiting what I call 'Rambo-style litigation' in both money and frustration, many clients, although not all, would pass on the pyrotechnics and pocket the monetary difference," she said.
O'Connor also noted a need for more civility. "Unfortunately, civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it," she said. "It's possible to disagree without being disagreeable."