Home Members Only Find Member News Join PaTLA Consumers Login Logout Renew

Registered Users Login
Members Only
Join PaTLA
Renew your Dues
Consumers & The Press
Legal Links
Exhibit & Advertising Opportunities
Guest Book
Privacy Statement
Contact Us

What is RSS?

PaTLA: fostering public awareness and understanding of the role of the trial lawyer in the administration of justice.

Shopping Cart

Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopts rule change recommended by Disciplinary Board

Oversight board believes that an "open" system will enhance the integrity of an already excellent legal system

(10/31/2005) - On Oct. 27, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, a 16-member agency created by the Supreme Court with oversight and investigative power to review the conduct of Pennsylvania lawyers, announced that the state’s high court has approved the Board's proposed amendments to the established process of disciplinary proceedings.

According to a press release issued by the Court, the existing method of conducting inquiries and disciplinary procedures abides by a confidentiality rule. Under the approved rule changes to the Pennsylvania Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement 402, disciplinary proceedings will be open to public review once formal charges are filed against an attorney.

"Attorneys across the state, as well as the public, should view this as a step to enhance the integrity of an already excellent legal system," said Marvin J. Rudnitsky, chairman of the Disciplinary Board. "Allowing public access to proceedings has been adopted by 41 of 51 jurisdictions throughout the United States. Our role as appointed members of the Disciplinary Board was to thoroughly study this issue by soliciting input from national experts, American Bar Association representatives, the public and Pennsylvania attorneys. Our proposed amendments were carefully drafted to promote positive change to the disciplinary proceedings while protecting the reputation of attorneys."

According to Rudnitsky, the adopted amendments to the confidentiality component of the existing system include a series of safeguards to prevent false accusations against attorneys from being made public. "The rule change includes safeguards for lawyers in the event a groundless complaint is filed by a disgruntled consumer," Rudnitsky explained. "The system (and the complaint) will not become public until after formal charges are filed against the attorney."

According to the press statement, in order to formalize charges in a disciplinary proceeding, the complaint is thoroughly investigated and reviewed to ensure formal charges are warranted. Formal charges are only filed after the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) has reviewed the complaint filed against the lawyer, and after the lawyer has had an opportunity to respond to the complaint and present his or her case. Even after the ODC determines that formal charges should be filed, the complaint and the attorney's response are carefully examined by one of the Disciplinary Board's hearing committee members, who must concur with the filing of formal charges. Under the adopted rules, if formal charges are indeed filed and an answer is filed or the time to file an answer has passed, then the record becomes public.

According to the press statement, the adopted amendment will keep all accusations confidential until after a Board hearing officer has had an opportunity to review each case and determine whether it has merit. The amended rules also give the Board discretion to seal some records and proceedings, and loosens access to records by other agencies investigating attorney misconduct. Rudnitsky noted that the Board has received input from other states that have opened their disciplinary process at the point when formal charges are filed, and it appears that ample safeguards exist during the confidential investigative process to protect attorneys from unfounded accusations.

The Disciplinary Board was created by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to review conduct and assure compliance by all attorneys to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct.

For more information about the Disciplinary Board please visit www.padisciplinaryboard.org



PaTLA 121 South Broad Street, Suite 600 Philadelphia, PA, 19107
Tel   215.546.6451 Fax  215.546.5430
Copyright © 2004, PaTLA All Rights Reserved