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Supreme Court Adopts Amendments to the Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement

By Order dated July 19, 2023, effective September 1, 2023, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted numerous amendments to the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement.

Pa.R.D.E. 219: The focal point of the omnibus package of amendments is an overhaul of Pa.R.D.E. 219 governing attorney registration and assessment of attorneys, administrative suspension, and administrative status changes. The comprehensive revisions improve readability, consistency, and flow of information to ensure that attorneys understand their annual registration obligations. Some highlights of the amendments are as follows:

  • Subdivision (a) sets forth the registration period and specifies which license statuses are required to register and which license statuses are exempt.
  • Subdivision (b) sets forth the requirement to pay the annual assessment, how it is to be paid, and the amount for active status, inactive status, and limited licenses. The Note informs how the total assessment is apportioned among the Board, IOLTA Board, and Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security.
  • Subdivision (c) sets forth the requirement to electronically file an annual registration form and further provides for exemptions to allow a paper filing.
  • Paragraphs (c)(1)(i) – (vii) set forth the information required to be provided by the attorney on the registration form. Paragraph (c)(1)(vi) contains a new requirement that the attorney identify the professional liability insurance carrier.
  • Subdivision (d) provides that the Attorney Registration Office will issue a license card or certificate to acknowledge completion of registration and payment of the annual assessment.
  • Subdivision (e) addresses incomplete registration.
  • Subdivision (f) addresses late payment penalties and collection fees, and sets forth the dates when such are assessed.
  • Subdivision (g) governs administrative suspension, which is the result of failure to comply with registration, Continuing Legal Education, or costs and fees requirements. This subdivision also addresses notice to the attorney of the order of administrative suspension and the restrictions on an attorney’s practice during the time that the attorney fails to satisfy the deficiency that led to the administrative suspension.
  • Subdivisions (h) and (i) govern administrative changes in status and set forth the requirements necessary for an attorney to assume a different status.
  • Subdivision (j) governs status changes for judges who sit on courts as specified under the rule and who are assigned “judge status” by the Attorney Registration Office.

Amendments to other Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement are designed to conform to the amendments to Pa.R.D.E. 219. Amendments of note include the following.

Pa.R.D.E. 102: The amendments add new definitions for the following terms: active, disability inactive, disbarment, emeritus status, inactive, judge, permanent resignation, retired, and suspension. The definitions also state whether an attorney on the status is eligible to practice, and in some cases what the expectations for return to active status are. Several other Rules are amended to add reference to some of these statuses.

Pa.R.D.E. 205: An amendment to Pa.R.D.E. 205(c) enumerates three additional powers and duties of the Disciplinary Board, relating to collection of expenses of investigation and prosecution, late penalties and administrative fees, reinstatement fees, and collection fees arising from disciplinary actions. These powers currently exist and are set forth in various Enforcement Rules, but the amendment consolidates them within subdivision (c).

Pa.R.D.E. 221: The amendments to Pa.R.D.E. 221 governing funds of clients and third persons add a new subdivision (q) setting forth the financial accounts and information required to be provided on the annual registration form pursuant to Pa.R.D.E. 219(c)(1)(iii). New subdivision (r) adds definitions of “funds of a client or third person subject to Pa.R.P.C. 1.15” and “funds of a third person”.

The amendments are published at 53 Pa.B. 4385 (8/5/2023). The amendments take effect September 1, 2023, except that changes to the annual attorney registration form reflected in Pa.R.D.E. 219(c) shall become effective May 1, 2024, for the 2024‑2025 attorney registration period.

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