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THE COURTS

Title 231—RULES OF
CIVIL PROCEDURE

PART I. GENERAL

[ 231 PA. CODE CH. 200 ]

Order Reinstating and Amending Rule 230.2 of the Rules of Civil Procedure; No. 634 Civil Procedural Rules Doc.

[45 Pa.B. 7283]
[Saturday, December 26, 2015]

Order

Per Curiam

And Now, this 9th day of December, 2015, upon the recommendation of the Civil Procedural Rules Committee; the proposal having been published for public comment at 45 Pa.B. 1843 (April 11, 2015):

It Is Ordered pursuant to Article V, Section 10 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania that Rule 230.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure is reinstated and amended in the following form. The Order of April 23, 2014 suspending Rule 230.2, No. 594 Civil Procedural Rules Docket (April 23, 2014), is dissolved prospectively as of the effective date of this Order.

 This Order shall be processed in accordance with Pa.R.J.A. No. 103(b), and shall be effective December 31, 2016.

Annex A

TITLE 231. RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

PART I. GENERAL

CHAPTER 200. BUSINESS OF COURTS

Rule 230.2. Termination of Inactive Cases.

 (a) [The court may] At least once a year, the court shall initiate proceedings to terminate [a case] cases in which there has been no activity of record for two years or more [by serving a notice of proposed dismissal of court case], and shall report such information to the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania on a form supplied by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts or in such format as requested from time to time by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Official Note: This rule provides an administrative method for the termination of inactive cases.

 (b)(1) [The] For each case identified pursuant to subdivision (a), the court shall serve [the notice] a notice of proposed termination on counsel of record, and on the parties if not represented, [sixty] thirty days prior to the date of the proposed termination. The notice shall contain the date of the proposed termination and the procedure to avoid termination.

 (2) The notice shall be served [by mail] electronically pursuant to Rule 205.4(g)(1), or pursuant to Rule 440 on counsel of record and on the parties, if not represented, at the last address of record. [If the mailed notice is returned, the notice shall be served by advertising it in the legal publication, if any, designated by the court for the publication of legal notices or in one newspaper of general circulation within the county.]

Official Note: If the notice mailed to an attorney is returned by the postal service, the prothonotary should check [a legal directory or contact the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts] the website of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, www.padisciplinaryboard.org, for a current address. [Otherwise, publication in the legal newspaper or a newspaper of general circulation within the county is required under this rule if the mailed notice is returned.]

 See subdivision [(e)] (f) for the form of notice.

 (c) If no statement of intention to proceed has been filed on or before the date of the proposed termination, the prothonotary shall enter an order as of course terminating the matter [with prejudice] for failure to prosecute.

Official Note: The prothonotary may not enter an order terminating the action until more than [sixty] thirty days after service of the notice of proposed termination.

 A court officer may certify to the prothonotary those matters which have been inactive and in which no statement of intention to proceed has been filed.

 (d)(1) If an action has been terminated pursuant to this rule, an aggrieved party may petition the court to reinstate the action.

 (2) If the petition is filed within [thirty] sixty days after the entry of the order of termination on the docket, the court shall grant the petition and reinstate the action.

Official Note: The provision under subdivision (d)(2) for filing a petition within [thirty] sixty days is not intended to set a standard for timeliness in proceedings outside this rule.

 (3) If the petition is filed more than [thirty] sixty days after the entry of the order of termination on the docket, the court shall grant the petition and reinstate the action upon a showing that

 (i) the petition was timely filed following the entry of the order for termination and

 (ii) there is a reasonable explanation or a legitimate excuse for the failure to file both

 (A) the statement of intention to proceed prior to the entry of the order of termination on the docket and,

 (B) the petition to reinstate the action within [thirty] sixty days after the entry of the order of termination on the docket.

Official Note: The provision under subdivision (d)(2) for filing a petition within [thirty] sixty days of the entry of the order of termination on the docket is not a standard of timeliness. Rather, the filing of the petition during that time period eliminates the need to make the showing otherwise required by subdivision (d)(3).

(e) Any case which is reinstated pursuant to subdivision (d) shall be subject to termination with prejudice upon a subsequent termination pursuant to subdivision (a). No subsequent reinstatements shall be granted.

[(e)] (f) The notice required by subdivision (b) shall be in the following form:

(Caption)

NOTICE OF PROPOSED TERMINATION OF COURT CASE

 The court intends to terminate this case without further notice because the docket shows no activity in the case for at least two years.

 You may stop the court from terminating the case by filing a [Statement of Intention to Proceed] statement of intention to proceed. The [Statement of Intention to Proceed] statement of intention to proceed should be filed with the Prothonotary of the Court at _________________
Address
on or before ______ .
Date

 IF YOU FAIL TO FILE THE REQUIRED STATEMENT OF INTENTION TO PROCEED, THE CASE WILL BE TERMINATED BY THE PROTHONOTARY WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE.

 BY THE COURT[;]:

______   _________________
Date of this Notice     Officer

[(f) The Statement of Intention to Proceed shall be in the following form:]

(g) The statement of intention to proceed shall be in the following form:

(Caption)

Statement of Intention to Proceed

To the Court:

______ intends to proceed with the above captioned matter.

Date: ______   _________________
             Attorney for __________

(h) Upon receipt of a statement of intention to proceed, the court may schedule a status conference and establish appropriate timelines to ensure a timely and efficient disposition of the case.

EXPLANATORY COMMENT

 In 2014, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania made efforts to reduce the inventory of civil cases on the dockets of the Courts of Common Pleas. To expedite that process, it suspended Rule 230.2 governing the termination of inactive cases. Originally adopted in 2003, Rule 230.2 implemented the general policy provisions of Rule of Judicial Administration 1901(a) governing the prompt disposition of matters and the termination of inactive cases. While Pa.R.J.A. No. 1901(a) provided general guidelines for conducting an administrative purge, Rule 230.2 set forth a procedural mechanism for a court to perform an administrative purge of cases that had remained on the civil docket for two or more years with no evidence of any activity.

 The Court has amended and reinstated Rule 230.2. The amendments have streamlined the procedure for the trial court to conduct an administrative purge of inactive cases, and are intended to ensure that the civil dockets reflect the current inventory of active cases, while encouraging attorneys to expeditiously litigate their cases.

 Several concerns with the suspended Rule 230.2 were identified. The suspended rule did not specify how often a court should conduct an administrative purge; it only provided a procedure should a court decide to conduct an administrative purge. In order to ensure that the civil case inventory is accurate, the amendment of subdivision (a) requires a court to conduct an administrative purge at least once a year. The court is also required to report such information to the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania with a form supplied by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

 A second problem identified with suspended Rule 230.2 was the provision for service of the notice of proposed termination in subdivision (b). In subdivision (b)(1), the suspended rule required service of the notice of proposed termination on counsel of record or unrepresented parties at least sixty days prior to the date of termination. To expedite the process, the amendment of subdivision (b)(1) shortens that time frame and require the notice to be served to at least thirty days prior to the date of termination.

 The suspended rule did not provide for modern, efficient methods for giving notice to counsel or unrepresented parties that cases were identified as having no activity on the docket for the previous two years. Subdivision (b)(2) of the suspended rule provided for the notice to be served by mail pursuant to Rule 440 at the last address of record. In the event that the notice was returned, publication was required in the legal publication designated by the court for such notices. In conjunction with the shortened time frame in subdivision (b)(1), the amendment of subdivision (b)(2) updates the method for giving notice by allowing the notice to be served electronically pursuant to Rule 205.4 governing electronic filing. The ability to serve notice by mail pursuant to Rule 440 has been retained, but publication in the legal journal when a notice has been returned has been eliminated.

 A third problem identified with suspended Rule 230.2 was the filing of statements of intention to proceed in order to keep a case active, but then not requiring any further obligation on counsel or an unrepresented party to move the case forward to resolution. Subdivision (c) of the suspended rule required an attorney or unrepresented party to file a statement of intention to proceed before the termination date stated in the notice in order to prevent the purging of the case from the docket. If no statement of intention to proceed was filed, the prothonotary was directed to enter an order terminating the matter for failure to prosecute. In the newly amended rule, this provision has been retained. However, new subdivision (h) encourages the trial court to manage its cases by scheduling a status conference and establishing appropriate timelines to insure a timely and efficient disposition of the case.

 Importantly, the amendment of Rule 230.2 retains the post-termination procedure set forth in subdivision (d) of the suspended rule, which allows a party to petition the court to reinstate the action. The suspended rule provided certain requirements for reinstatement depending whether the petition is filed within thirty days or beyond thirty days. While the requirements remain unchanged, subdivision (d) has been amended to provide for sixty days rather than thirty days. New subdivision (e), however, limits reinstatements of a case. If any case, previously reinstated, is terminated pursuant to this rule, then it is terminated with prejudice. No additional reinstatements will be granted. This provision is intended to encourage the efficient litigation of cases and to not let them languish on the docket.

By the Civil Procedural
Rules Committee

PETER J. HOFFMAN, 
Chair

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 15-2269. Filed for public inspection December 24, 2015, 9:00 a.m.]



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