Disciplinary Board Changes Hearing Committee Structures

The Disciplinary Board is proposing changes in the way the Hearing Committees who conduct hearings in disciplinary cases and review Disciplinary Counsel recommendations are assigned. Currently, all Hearing Committees are empanelled on a long-term basis with three lawyers who practice in the District in which the disciplinary case is brought, and the member of the Hearing Committee with the longest tenure in that role serves as its Chair.

Under the new proposal, attorneys who have previously served on the Disciplinary Board or participated in disciplinary hearings would be classified as Experienced or Senior Hearing Committee Members. As before, only attorneys practicing in the district where the case is brought are eligible to serve as Hearing Committee members.

To qualify as an Experienced Member, an attorney must have served for one year or more and participated in at least one hearing into formal charges of misconduct. To qualify as a Senior Member, the attorney must have served one three-year term and participated in at least three formal misconduct hearings. Attorneys who have served on the Disciplinary Board qualify as both Experienced and Senior Members.

The three-member Hearing Committee for each case will be appointed from the pool of Hearing Committee Members serving in a District. Each Hearing Committee must include one Senior Member, who will serve as the Chair of the Committee, and one of the other two members must also be a Senior or Experienced Member.

Only Senior or Experienced Members may perform other roles, including reviewing recommendations of Disciplinary Counsel for private discipline or formal charges, hearing and determining challenges to subpoenas, or conducting abbreviated hearings in cases of reinstatement from inactive status.

Comments on the proposed changes were accepted until July 12, 2004. They were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on June 26, 2004.