The South Carolina supreme court unanimously suspended the law license of attorney David Traywick of Mount Pleasant, S.C. on Friday after he took to social media earlier this month and claimed that George Floyd – the black man suffocated to death by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day – was a “sh*tstain.”
Here is a look at what Traywick posted (graphic language warning) …
(Click to view)
Traywick’s post earned him immediate (and rightful) condemnation from the legal profession’s outlet of record.
“He’s taken this moment in history to use social media to engage in a shameful degradation of George Floyd’s character, and participate in the disgusting tradition of valuing money over the lives of black people,” noted Kathryn Rubino for Above The Law.
A source who forwarded us the screenshot of Traywick’s post accused him of “spewing more hate than any member of the bar should be able to.”
“I get freedom of speech but they also have a code to uphold,” the source added.
In suspending Traywick based on the recommendation of its office of disciplinary counsel, the justices invoked rule 17 (b) of the Palmetto State’s rules for lawyer disciplinary conduct. This rule generically addresses “other misconduct,” and holds that an attorney’s license to practice law can be suspended if there is “sufficient evidence” to demonstrate the lawyer poses “a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or to the administration of justice.”
Did Traywick’s post rise to that level? Obviously what he wrote was overtly racist, callous, insensitive and wildly inappropriate (and clearly failed to adhere to the higher standard attorneys are supposed to hold themselves to in South Carolina).
“We take an oath of civility,” one attorney noted.
But did his post actually violate the rule cited by the court?
Also, was there other conduct associated with Traywick’s post that contributed to the court’s decision?
We are digging on that question …
There was some speculation Traywick might avoid censure because South Carolina is one of only two states which has yet to adopt the American Bar Association (ABA)’s rule 8.4 (g) – which aims to curb discrimination in the legal profession.
This rule stipulates that the definition of professional misconduct is to include “conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.”
Of course, the final eight words of that rule – “in conduct related to the practice of law” – raise additional questions.
Obviously, we condemn what Traywick posted. It was deplorable in every sense of the word. Similarly, we condemn the hate underlying his words. But as morally wrong as it is to hate other people on the basis of their skin color – and as offensive as hate speech in our society has become – we cannot toss out constitutional liberty in the name of rectifying all such bad behavior.
In some cases, we must rely on the marketplace to do that.
“It’s undeniably wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of their skin color when taxpayer resources are involved – and in our view it’s just plain stupid to discriminate on that basis in business,” we noted in a post three years ago.
But does the right to free speech not still exist?
We are not necessarily opposing the supreme court’s decision. If Traywick took an oath of civility at any time prior to joining the South Carolina Bar he clearly violated it with his post. Also, we believe South Carolina should seriously consider upgrading its attorney discipline code to more specifically address discriminatory behavior within the legal system.
What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …
Should the S.C. supreme court have temporarily suspended David Traywick's law license on the basis of his Facebook post?
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