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Attorney E-Newsletter

November 2008

Douglas Leonard Joins Disciplinary Board

On October 27, 2008, Douglas W. Leonard of Cranberry Township, Butler County, was named to the Disciplinary Board to fill the unexpired term of Robert L. Storey. His term runs through April 1, 2010.

Mr. Leonard is currently an Executive Consultant with Strategic Solutions International, Inc., where he works with senior leadership and their teams to integrate people issues with business strategy to meet corporate objectives. Prior to joining SSI, Mr. Leonard served as the Court Administrator for the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County for six years, and was the Legal Administrator for the Pittsburgh based law firm of Mansmann Cindrich and Titus. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Economics and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. In addition, he is a certified mediator.

Mr. Leonard serves as one of the two nonlawyer members of the Disciplinary Board. Mark S. Baer of Washington County is the other nonlawyer member.

New Modifications Proposed to Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement

The Disciplinary Board has published an extensive set of proposed revisions to the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (Pa.R.D.E.), which govern attorney registration and disciplinary proceedings. The proposed changes were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on November 15, 2008 at 38 Pa.B. 6253. The rule changes include four major areas of revision1:

  1. A new status of licensure is created: Administrative suspension.2 Lawyers will be placed on administrative suspension for:
    1. Failure to pay the annual fee and/or file the annual fee form;
    2. Failure to satisfy Continuing Legal Education requirements under Rule 111(b), Pa.Rules for Continuing Education;
    3. Failure to pay costs or expenses taxed in a disciplinary order under Rule 208(g); or
    4. Failure to meet the requirements for maintaining a limited license such as foreign legal consultant, defender or legal aid, or military attorney.

For purposes of the rules regarding compliance or reinstatement, administrative suspension is treated more like inactive or retired status than like disciplinary suspension. Reinstatement from administrative suspension for more than three (3) years is covered by Rule 218(d), Pa.R.D.E., rather than the more rigorous procedure of Rule 218(c) for suspended attorneys. One difference is that attorneys seeking reinstatement from administrative suspension under this rule must pay a $300 reinstatement fee. Attorneys under administrative suspension may apply for reinstatement under Rule 219(h), which requires submitting a form and paying back assessments and late charges, as well as the $300 fee.

Lawyers currently transferred to inactive status by court order will have one year to petition for reinstatement, or they will be transferred to administrative suspension.

  1. Changes are proposed to Rule 214 regarding the procedure followed when a lawyer is convicted of a criminal offense. The changes are intended to provide a more streamlined process for proceeding to discipline in such cases. For minor offenses or those that do not relate to the practice of law, Disciplinary Counsel has the option to decide not to file a Petition for Discipline, subject to review by the Chair or Vice Chair of the Disciplinary Board. Since this is not an area of personal interest to most of our readership3, we will not recount the changes in detail.
  2. Certain proposed changes to Rule 218 would expedite the processing of some petitions for reinstatement, particularly from inactive status or administrative suspension. If Disciplinary Counsel concludes there is no impediment to reinstatement, they may file a certification with the Disciplinary Board. Then, the written record may be reviewed by a single Board member, who may recommend that reinstatement be approved or denied, or that a hearing be scheduled. If the Board member recommends approval, the Supreme Court “shall enter” an order reinstating the applicant. The Chief Justice may delegate the issuance of such orders to the Prothonotary.4 If the Board member recommends denial or hearing, the matter is then scheduled for hearing.
  3. Proposed changes would affect reciprocal discipline under Rule 216. The changes would expand the kinds of judicial actions which constitute “discipline,” in recognition that not all states and jurisdictions use the same procedures and terminology as Pennsylvania.

Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted through January 16, 2009.

Rule Booklets Available

New desk-sized booklets7 with the revised Rules of Professional Conduct, including new money-handling requirements of Rule 1.15, are now available. Copies may be ordered from the Disciplinary Board with a check payable in advance to “PA Disciplinary Board.” The booklets are $2.00 each plus shipping and handling. Shipping and handling is $1.50 per order and $.50 per each additional copy. Therefore, one copy is $3.50, two copies are $6.00, three are $8.50, etc.8 To purchase books, click here.

F.A.Q. (Furtively Asked Questions)

Q: I’m pretty much retired now, and last year I marked my registration form as “retired,” so I wouldn’t have to pay the fee. I can still do a will or review a lease here and there, can’t I?

A: No. “Retired” status has the same effect as “Voluntary Inactive” – it means that the attorney who selects this status under Rule 219(i) may no longer practice law, even on an occasional basis, without charging fees, or only for relatives and friends. Electing retirement means the lawyer no longer intends to practice law – even a little bit.

Got a Tip?

Or a question, a comment, an idea you’d like to see addressed? We are always glad to hear from you. Write us at comments@padisciplinaryboard.org.

1 As always, this is an abbreviated summary of extended rules. Otherwise we would have to reprint the whole rule, and none of us wants that, do we? The scrupulous should, of course, review the original.

2 No, we are not suspending administration of anything. You wish.

3 We hope.

4 We understand that Pennsylvania and Delaware are the only states that still have Prothonotaries.5 It is said that Harry Truman, introduced to a Prothonotary while campaigning in Pennsylvania, remarked that “Prothonotary” was the most impressive political title in the United States, after he said, “What the blazes is a Prothonotary?” Only being Harry Truman, he didn’t say “blazes.”

5 However, many states have Prothonotary Warblers. 6

6 We have no information on whether any Pennsylvania Prothonotaries can warble.

7 The new booklets are lime green. They should be easy to find, even on desks as cluttered as ours.

8 For those daunted by the math, there is a table of prices for multiple copies here.