Supreme Court Approves Discipline By Consent Rule Changes

On May 24, 2005, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania adopted changes to Rule 215 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement which allow the entry of discipline by consent, bypassing the hearing process.

New Section 215(d) allows Disciplinary Counsel and a Respondent-Attorney to jointly petition the Disciplinary Board for discipline by consent at any stage of a disciplinary proceeding or investigation. The Petition shall include the specific factual allegations that the attorney admits he or she committed, the specific Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement allegedly violated, and a specific recommendation for discipline. The Petition is to be accompanied by an affidavit stating that the attorney freely and voluntarily consents to the recommended discipline, acknowledges that the facts in the Petition are true, and that the attorney could not successfully defend the against the charges.

The Petition is to be referred to a three-member panel of the Disciplinary Board, which may approve or deny the Petition. If the agreed disposition involves private discipline, the matter is referred to Chief Disciplinary Counsel or a panel of the Disciplinary Board for appropriate disposition. If the recommendation is for public discipline, the report of the panel and the Petition are filed with the Supreme Court which may approve or deny it. If either the Supreme Court or the Disciplinary Board panel denies the recommendation, the proceeding resumes and the three-member panel that reviewed the Petition does not participate in the Disciplinary Board's adjudication of the matter.

The Order adopting the changes is posted here, and the text of the changes is here. The changes take effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which is scheduled for June 11, 2005, and affect all pending proceedings to the extent practical.