Monday, August 29, 2011

Pennsylvania Changes

From the web page of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board:

The Disciplinary Board has proposed amending the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to provide for a new form of discipline, Public Reprimand, with or without probation.

The proposed rule, published at 41 Pa. Bull. 4200 (8/6/2011), provides that public reprimand could be imposed by the Disciplinary Board through summary procedure, which would not require the institution of formal proceedings, although the respondent-attorney would have the right, as with all summary discipline, to request that formal charges be filed prior to the imposition of discipline.

While noting that the proper applications of the new sanction will be defined in cases, the Board gives a few examples of situations where public reprimand may be applied:

  • The misconduct does not harm or prejudice a client, but causes significant prejudice to a court or the administration of justice;
  • Where public discipline short of suspension or disbarment has been imposed in another jurisdiction;
  • Criminal conviction of a relatively minor offense that receives public notoriety and demeans the legal profession;
  • An administrative body has found that the respondent-attorney violated a provision of an ethics act or code of conduct applicable to public officials and employees.

The Board explains misconduct in such cases may have already been exposed to public scrutiny, and the new provision will provide for a public sanction to satisfy the primary purposes of professional discipline while allowing the respondent-attorney to continue to practice law. The public reprimand may be subject to conditions and may be imposed in combination with probation.

Comments should be sent by mail or facsimile to the Office of the Secretary, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, P.O. Box 62625, Harrisburg, PA 17106-2625, facsimile number (717-231-3382) on or before September 30, 2011.

On the same day, the Disciplinary Board also issued a rulemaking modifying several of the Rules of the Disciplinary Board. These amendments, published at 41 Pa.B. 4202, carry into the Board Rules changes made in the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement over the past several months. One substantive change in the new Board rules is that the time set forth in Section 87.7(b)(2) for responding to a Request for Statement of Respondent’s Position (DB-7 letter) is enlarged from 20 to 30 days. It should be mentioned that under the amendments to Rule 203(b)(7) of the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, failure to respond to a Request for Statement of Respondent’s Position is now a separate ground for discipline. The amendments took effect upon publication.

(Mike Frisch)

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