Kentucky Lawyers and Politicians Are Required to Disavow Dueling

In this increasingly-contentious society, it is easy to find oneself choosing sides. Standing your ground and defending a position may put you at odds with others. Sometimes emotions can be so intense that it feels as if you are in a duel.

While the feelings are understandable, be sure that any dueling in which you might engage remains figurative. Crossing the line carries a host of nasty consequences. In Kentucky, those consequences include giving up any plans of being a lawyer or a politician.

Each state has a requirement about elected officials and attorneys taking an oath. Kentucky is unique in its specific requirement to disavow dueling.

The state’s constitution spells out the oath that must be taken by all attorneys, state officers, and members of the legislature. One-third of the oath deals with dueling:

Members of the General Assembly and all officers, before they enter upon the execution of the duties of their respective offices, and all members of the bar, before they enter upon the practice of their profession, shall take the following oath or affirmation:  I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of….. according to law;  and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I , being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State, nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.

Kentucky Constitution § 228 . Oath of officers and attorneys

The peculiar requirement has been part of Kentucky’s constitution since 1849, when the problem with dueling was a bit more prevalent than it is today. The last known duel in the state was held in the late 1860s.

The requirement remains, despite numerous attempts to remove it from the constitution. The most recent effort was in 2010, but the proposed legislation died in committee — from inaction, not from a duel.

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