Court: Legal status can't be used in civil cases

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A person's legal status in the country can't be used in civil cases by attorneys to intimidate or coerce under a new rule approved by the Washington Supreme Court last week.

Since 2007, advocates have been working to make the change to the Rules of Professional conduct that attorneys licensed in the state must adhere to following. The lobbying began after members of the Latino/a Bar Association of Washington had seen attorneys and, in some cases, judges discuss a person's legal status in the country openly in court to intimidate.

"We thought it was unethical to do," said Lorena Gonzalez, who was president of the attorney association at the time. "We looked at the rules there was silence on the issue."

The rule does not affect criminal cases, but does cover civil matters, such as family disputes, personal injury claims, workplace cases, medical malpractice and other fields.

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