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Court drops references to gender from rules

There'll be no more "he, his and him" in Florida court rules in a move designed to remove gender references from the justice system.

"The reason for doing this is to stress to everyone, lawyer and non-lawyer alike, male and female, that we live in a gender neutral society where everybody has an equal opportunity," said Alan Dimond, president of the Florida Bar.

The Florida Rules of Judicial Procedure, which govern how the courts operate, have always used the pronouns "he, his and him." The Florida Supreme Court agreed Thursday to drop the pronouns based on a recommendation from the Bar.

The recommendation stemmed from a 1989 report from the court's Gender Bias Study Commission, which called for sweeping changes in how the law is applied to women and how women working in the justice system are treated.

Here's an example of the change: Where a sentence once said the circuit court clerk must keep all records "in his custody," it will now say records should be kept "in the custody of the clerk."

It may seem like mere symbolism, but the move away from male pronouns in court rules sends a strong message, said Circuit Judge Susan Bucklew of Tampa.

"It may be a little thing as far as a lot of people are concerned, but I think when we consistently refer to lawyers and judges as "he,' then subconsciously people might think the law is only for men," she said.

About 10,000 of the Florida Bar's 49,000 members are women, Dimond said.

"Language sends an important signal. Historically, the legal profession was almost all male and no one thought twice of referring to a lawyer as "he,'

" Dimond said. "It's important that we root out all of these symbols of a profession that at one time was exclusively male."

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