Over the last several decades, professional sports has lost a lot of its professionalism, and professional athletes a lot of their sense of sportsmanship.

Once rare and never tolerated, the surliness and savagery of court ruffians and gridiron gorillas has become commonplace.

The idea that the end does not justify the means – that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game -- has given way to winning at all costs.

Thankfully, efforts are being made – particularly, through rulemaking and rule enforcement -- to rein in the unruliness and restore the old standards of sportsmanship.

Granted, referees of the reformation must resist the temptation to be pedantic with their penalties, but reasonable scrupulosity is to be applauded if it prevents injuries and discourages childish displays of petulance and narcissism.

The legal profession seems to have undergone a similar retrogression over the same period. In this field, too, we may be witnessing a revival of the rules of right behavior, thanks to justices who expect attorneys practicing in their courtrooms to respect the law as much as they do.

Recently, on the recommendation of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), our State Supreme Court disciplined several attorneys who’d taken too broad a view of their rights and privileges.

Two of the worst offenders were Lawrence Hess and Bruce Alan Carr of East St. Louis and Valparaiso, Ind., respectively.

Carr helped Hess file a frivolous lawsuit against a pair of Hess’s former clients, apparently in an attempt to settle a fee dispute with a law firm Hess had worked for while representing them – and from which he’d been fired.

Carr was banned from practicing law for nine months, Hess for six. Both were ordered to reimburse the Client Protection Program Trust Fund for costs associated with the ARDC complaint against them.

The ARDC review board concluded that the suspensions were “necessary to protect the public and the integrity of the legal profession.” Exactly so.

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