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August 02, 2004

Philadelphia Bar Association Supports More Open Lawyer Disciplinary Process for Pennsylvania

The call comes in the form of a Resolution approved by the Association's Board of Governors. The resolution authorizes Association Chancellor Gabriel L. I. Bevilacqua to support the planned changes, which have already been proposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board.

The Association's support is conditioned upon the continued protection of confidentiality for lawyers under special circumstances, such as where personal privacy issues are involved or where a formal petition for discipline is filed as part of an appeal from private discipline.

According to Chancellor Bevilacqua, the state's largest local bar association recognizes that "generally, we all benefit when the public knows more about the lawyer disciplinary process."

"We recognize that the movement throughout our society is toward more openness," Bevilacqua added. "We know that accountability is important. And we think that if the public is given more information about the lawyer disciplinary process it will be helpful because people will come to see that lawyer misconduct is actually quite rare."

The Chancellor pointed out that 38 states have already opened their disciplinary processes to the extent recommended by the Association's resolution. "This is an area where Pennsylvania has lagged. Now we have an opportunity to move in the right direction. It's an important step."

Bevilacqua stressed that special efforts must still be made to protect the privacy of lawyers who have gotten into trouble because of factors such as substance abuse, addiction problems or domestic problems or in cases where private discipline is being appealed. "There are some extraordinary circumstances. But beyond that, we see no reason not to move forward with more disclosure," he added.

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