Skip to Main Content
Menu

Glossary of Terms

Abbreviated Procedure: In disciplinary proceedings, a method by which certain disciplinary and reinstatement cases may be handled. After the evidence has been presented in either a disciplinary or reinstatement case, the procedure allows for an agreement among the parties as to the disposition of the matter. Preparation of the transcript is waived, and the report of the Hearing Committee is prepared in summary format. The procedure followed in such situations is found in Disciplinary Board Rules 89.181 and 89.277.

Conservator: Disciplinary Counsel or another attorney admitted to practice in Pennsylvania who is appointed by the president judge of a Court of Common Pleas to protect the interests of clients of an absent attorney. Rules governing the process for appointment of a conservator, duties and other elements, including payment for conservators, can be found in Pa.R.D.E. 321-329.

Conviction: As it relates to an attorney’s duty to report any criminal convictions to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, is any guilty verdict, whether after trial by judge or jury, or finding of guilt, and any plea of guilty or nolo contendere that has been accepted by the court, whether or not a sentence has been imposed.

Crime: An offense that is punishable by imprisonment in the jurisdiction of conviction, whether or not a sentence of imprisonment is actually imposed. Notwithstanding any other provision of Pa.R.D.E. 214(h), the term “crime” includes criminal contempt, whether direct or indirect, and without regard to the sentence that may be imposed or that is actually imposed. It does not include parking violations or summary offenses, both traffic and non-traffic, unless a term of imprisonment is actually imposed.

DB-7 Request for Statement of Respondent’s Position: A document, sent by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, wherein Disciplinary Counsel advises the Respondent-Attorney of the allegations of misconduct and alleged rule violations. The Respondent-Attorney must respond to the DB-7 in accordance with Pa.R.D.E. 203(b)(7).

Disciplinary Counsel: The attorneys, under the leadership of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, tasked with investigating all matters involving alleged misconduct called to their attention, whether by complaint or otherwise. Disciplinary Counsel make recommendations for appropriate disposition of cases and appear at hearings on behalf of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. 

Discipline on Consent: At any time during an investigation, a Respondent-Attorney can come to an agreement with Disciplinary Counsel as to a recommended discipline. Depending on the recommended discipline, the Petition for Discipline on Consent may need to be reviewed and approved by a panel of the Disciplinary Board and/or the Supreme Court. The procedure followed in such situations is provided for Pa.R.D.E. 215.

Experienced Hearing Committee Member: An attorney who, at the time, is a member of the panel of Hearing Committee members in a disciplinary district and who has served as a member of a panel of Hearing Committee members for at least one year and on a Hearing Committee that has conducted at least one hearing into formal charges of misconduct by a Respondent-Attorney.

Hearing Committee: A panel of three Hearing Committee members, who were appointed by the Disciplinary Board, to preside over a disciplinary matter or reinstatement matter. A Hearing Committee must contain at least one senior Hearing Committee member, and another member shall be either a senior Hearing Committee member or an experienced Hearing Committee member. The Board designates one of the senior Hearing Committee members as the Hearing Committee Chair.  

Misconduct: Conduct in violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and/or Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (Pa.R.D.E.).

Petition for Discipline: The charging document which initiates a formal proceeding in the attorney disciplinary system, wherein the Office of Disciplinary Counsel alleges the misconduct and rule violations.

Petitioner-Attorney: In a reinstatement matter, the attorney seeking reinstatement.

Reciprocal Discipline: A final adjudication of any court or body authorized to conduct disciplinary proceedings imposing discipline on an attorney admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth can result in identical or comparable discipline imposed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on the attorney’s Pennsylvania license. The procedure followed in such situations is provided for in Pa.R.D.E. 216.  Attorneys are required to report discipline from other jurisdictions to the Office of the Secretary within 20 days. 

Reinstatement: An attorney may not resume practice until reinstated by order of the Supreme Court. The reinstatement process is initiated with the filing of a Petition for Reinstatement and Reinstatement Questionnaire in the following circumstances: (1) the attorney was suspended for a period exceeding one year; or, (2) the attorney was on retired status, inactive status, or administrative suspension for three years or more. The Office of the Secretary or the Attorney Registration Office can certify to the Supreme Court the petitioner’s ability to resume active status in the following circumstances: (1) the attorney was suspended for a period of one year or less; or, (2) the attorney was on retired status, inactive status, or administrative suspension for a period less than three years. 

Respondent-Attorney: The attorney whose conduct is the subject of the inquiry into alleged misconduct.

RPC 1.15 Records: Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(c) requires attorneys to keep complete records of the receipt, maintenance, and disposition of funds of clients and third parties. The Rule specifies the types of records to be maintained and for how long. In certain situations, attorneys are required to provide the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with these records.

Senior Hearing Committee Member: An attorney who, at the time, is a member of the panel of Hearing Committee members in a disciplinary district and who has previously served either (1) as a member of the Board, or (2) a full three-year term on a panel of Hearing Committee members and on Hearing Committees that have conducted at least two hearings into formal charges of misconduct by Respondent-Attorneys.

Stale: A matter that is more than four years old. Generally, ODC cannot pursue complaints arising out of acts or omissions occurring more than four years prior to the date of the complaint, except for limited situations.

Types of Discipline

Disbarment by the Supreme Court. 

Suspension by the Supreme Court for a period not exceeding five years. 

  • Emergency Temporary Suspension: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania may order an Emergency Temporary Suspension when the continued practice of law by an attorney is causing immediate and substantial public or private harm because of egregious misconduct, including the misappropriation of funds, in manifest violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) and/or the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement (Pa.R.D.E.).  The procedure followed in such situations is provided in Pa.R.D.E. 208(f) or 214(d).

Public Censure by the Supreme Court with or without probation. 

Probation by the Supreme Court under supervision provided by the Board. 

Public Reprimand by the Board with or without probation.* 

Private Reprimand by the Board with or without probation.*

Private Informal admonition by Disciplinary Counsel.*

*Conditions may be attached.

References from Cases

 Disciplinary Counsel v. Braun, 520 Pa. 157, 553 A.2d 894 (1989): The standard for determining mitigation due to mental or physical condition.

Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Keller, 509 Pa. 573, 506 A.2d 872 (1986): Additional inquiry applicable to reinstatement from disbarment.