Rule 402. Access to Disciplinary Information and Confidentiality.

 (a)  Except as provided in subdivisions (b), (d) and (k), all proceedings under these rules shall be open to the public after:

   (1)  the filing of an answer to a petition for discipline;

   (2)  the time to file an answer to a petition for discipline has expired without an answer being filed;

   (3)  the filing and service of a petition for reinstatement; or

   (4)  the Board has entered an Order determining a public reprimand.

 (b)  Notwithstanding subdivision (a), an informal proceeding under these rules in which it is determined that private discipline should be imposed but that subsequently results in the filing of formal charges shall not be open to the public until or unless the Supreme Court enters its order for the imposition of public discipline.

 (c)  Until the proceedings are open under subdivision (a) or (b), all proceedings involving allegations of misconduct by or disability of an attorney shall be kept confidential unless:

   (1) the respondent-attorney requests that the matter be public, or waives confidentiality for a particular purpose specified in writing;

   (2)  the investigation is predicated upon a conviction of the respondent-attorney for a crime or reciprocal discipline;

   (3)  the proceeding is based on an order of temporary suspension from the practice of law entered by the Court pursuant to Enforcement Rule 208(f)(1) (relating to emergency temporary suspension orders and related relief);

   (4)  in matters involving alleged disability, the Supreme Court enters its order transferring the respondent-attorney to inactive status pursuant to Enforcement Rule 301 (relating to proceedings where an attorney is declared to be incompetent or is alleged to be incapacitated); or

   (5)  there is a need to notify another person or organization, including the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Security, in order to protect the public, the administration of justice, or the legal profession.

 (d)  This rule shall not be construed to:

   (1)  Deny access to relevant information at any point during a proceeding under these rules to:

     (i)   authorized agencies investigating the qualifications of judicial candidates,

     (ii)   the Judicial Conduct Board with respect to an investigation it is conducting,

     (iii)   other jurisdictions investigating qualifications for admission to practice;

     (iv)   law enforcement agencies investigating qualifications for government employment;

     (v)   lawyer disciplinary enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions investigating misconduct by the respondent-attorney; or

     (vi)   the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security Board investigating a claim for reimbursement arising from conduct by the respondent-attorney.

   (2)  Require Disciplinary Counsel to refrain from reporting to law enforcement authorities the commission or suspected commission of any criminal offense or information relating to a criminal offense.

   (3)  Prevent the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security from utilizing information obtained during any investigation to pursue subrogated claims.

 (e)  Subdivision (a) shall not be construed to provide public access to:

   (1)  the work product of the Board, Disciplinary Counsel, hearing committee members, or special masters;

   (2)  deliberations of a hearing committee, special master, the Board or the Court; or

   (3)  information subject to a protective order issued by the Board under subdivision (f).

 (f)  The Board may, upon application of any person and for good cause shown, issue a protective order prohibiting the disclosure of specific information otherwise privileged or confidential, and the Board may direct that proceedings be conducted soas to implement the order, including requiring that a hearing be conducted in such a way as to preserve the confidentiality of the information that is the subject of a protective order.

 (g)  Except as provided in subsection (h), if nonpublic information is requested pursuant to subdivision (d)(1)(i), (iii), (iv) or (v) and the respondent-attorney has not signed an applicable waiver of confidentiality, the respondent-attorney shall be notified in writing at the last known address of the respondent-attorney of what information has been requested and by whom, together with a copy of the information proposed to be released to the requesting agency or board. The notice shall advise the respondent-attorney that the information will be released 20 days after mailing of the notice unless the lawyer objects to the disclosure. If the lawyer timely objects to the disclosure, the information shall remain confidential unless the requesting agency or board obtains an order of the Supreme Court requiring its release or the respondent-attorney withdraws the objection.

 (h)  If an agency or board requesting the release of information under subdivision (d)(1) other than the Judicial Conduct Board and the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security Board has not obtained an applicable waiver of confidentiality from the respondent-attorney, and the agency or board requests that the information be released without giving notice to the respondent-attorney, the requesting agency or board shall certify that:

   (1)  the request is made in furtherance of an ongoing investigation into misconduct by the respondent-attorney;

   (2)  the information is essential to that investigation; and

   (3)  disclosure of the existence of the investigation to the respondent-attorney would seriously prejudice the investigation.

 (i)  The Board shall transmit notice of all public discipline imposed by the Supreme Court, transfers to or from inactive status for disability, and reinstatements to the National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank maintained by the American Bar Association.

 (j)  This rule does not permit broadcasting, televising, recording or taking photographs during a proceeding under these rules, except that a hearing committee, a special master, the Board or the Supreme Court when conducting a proceeding may authorize the use of electronic or photographic means for the presentation of evidence, for the perpetuation of a record or for other purposes of judicial administration.

 (k) If a formal proceeding results in the imposition of private discipline or dismissal of all the charges, the proceeding shall cease to be open to the public when the decision to impose private discipline or dismiss the charges becomes final, unless the respondent-attorney requests that the record of the proceeding remain open to the public.

   Official Note

   Paragraph (d)(2) is based on 18 Pa.C.S. §  5108 (relating to compounding). Otherwise Disciplinary Counsel may be in the anomalous position of violating Rule 8.4 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct.

   Although subdivision (k) provides that a formal proceeding that becomes open to the public under subdivision (a) will subsequently be closed if it results in the imposition of private discipline or dismissal of all the charges, the closing of the proceeding cannot change the fact that the proceeding was open to the public for a period of time. Thus, subdivision (k) makes clear that the respondent-attorney may request that the record of the proceeding remain open to demonstrate that the charges were dismissed or only private discipline was imposed.


   The provisions of this Rule 402 amended April 1, 1983, effective April 2, 1983, 13 Pa.B. 1179; amended October 21, 1988, effective November 12, 1988, 18 Pa.B. 5070; amended November 26, 1990, effective December 15, 1990, 20 Pa.B. 6142; amended October 26, 2005, effective upon publication of this Order in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and shall apply to all matters thereafter commenced and to those matters pending at the time in which a petition for discipline or a petition for reinstatement has not been filed; amended May 23, 2007, effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and shall govern all matters thereafter commenced and, insofar as just and practicable, matters then pending; amended December 12, 2008, effective immediately, 38 Pa.B. 7079; amended May 17, 2012, effective in 30 days, 42 Pa.B. 3127. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (346838) and (340353) to (340355).

No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.

This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Code full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.