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Title 204—JUDICIAL SYSTEM GENERAL PROVISIONS

[ 204 PA. CODE CH. 83 ]

Proposed Amendments to the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement Relating to Annual Registration of Attorneys

[48 Pa.B. 6784]
[Saturday, October 27, 2018]

 Notice is hereby given that The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (''Board'') is considering recommending to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that it adopt amendments to Pennsylvania Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement ('Pa.R.D.E.'') 219, relating to the timing of nonwaivable late payment penalties assessed against an attorney who fails to timely complete the annual attorney registration, as set forth in Annex A.

 Rule 219(a) provides that every attorney admitted to practice law in this Commonwealth shall pay an annual fee and electronically file the annual fee form by July 1. Pursuant to subdivision (c) of the rule, attorneys are notified of this obligation, via electronic mail, on or before May 15 of each year. Subdivision (f) of the rule provides for the assessment of two nonwaivable late payment penalties, the first on attorneys who fail to register by July 31, and the second on attorneys who fail to register by August 31. Although not explicitly stated, the rule provides for a courtesy period between July 1 and July 31 for late registration without penalty.

 After August 31, the continued failure to comply with the registration and payment requirements of Rule 219 is deemed a request to be administratively suspended. The Rule directs the Attorney Registration Office (''Office'') to certify to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania the name of every attorney who has failed to comply with registration. Following the timelines provided for in the rule, generally, the Office sends the administrative suspension list to the Court in September, after which time the Court enters its administrative suspension order, effective in October.

 As set forth in Rule 219, the active registration period lasts from May 15 through July 1, with late registration penalties imposed on July 31 and August 31. The basis for the July 31 and August 31 late registration penalty dates is historical in nature due to the fact that for decades, attorneys were required to file the annual registration in paper form. Processing the paper registration forms was time-consuming. The Office mailed all registration forms and notices pertaining to registration in paper form and attorneys submitted all registration paperwork to the Office through the mail. Staff manually sorted the forms and inputted the data into the Attorney Registration database. The timeframes memorialized in the existing Rules are responsive to these past practices

 Electronic registration has been mandatory since the 2016-2017 registration year, whereby attorneys register by accessing a portal on the Unified Judicial System's web site. Using the electronic portal, attorneys have the option to pay by credit card, thus immediately completing the attorney registration obligation once that payment is processed, or attorneys can opt to print out a voucher and mail in the voucher along with a check or money order. In the latter case, the attorney registration obligation is considered completed once the payment is received and processed. Additionally, the Office now sends registration notices to attorneys in electronic form. Communicating with attorneys via electronic mail allows Office staff to notify those who have not completed the process through weekly or bi-weekly emails.

 The data on timely compliance bears out the success of these technological developments and demonstrates a readiness for modification of the existing timelines. For 2017-2018 registration, over 79% of attorneys completed their registration by July 1; by July 31, prior to the imposition of the first late fee, over 96%1 of attorneys completed their registration. For 2018-2019, nearly 82% of attorneys completed registration by July 1; by July 31, nearly 97%2 of attorneys completed their registration. Yet, after July 31, registration remains open until October for approximately 3% of attorneys, roughly 2,500 registrants. Upon the Board's analysis, since the transition to electronic registration and communication, the timeline established by the Rules, which was responsive to past practices, warrants modification in light of current practices.

 The Board proposes truncating the registration period by amending subdivision (f) to change the late registration dates from July 31 and August 31 to July 16 and August 1. This proposed change only impacts the period for late registration; the active registration period remains the same, May 15 through July 1. Additionally, the rule still permits a courtesy period to file late registrations before penalties are assessed, from July 1 to July 15. Compressing the dates for late registration will streamline the registration process and will allow the Office to send the administrative suspension list to the Court in early August, as opposed to September, with an effective date of the Court's order in September, instead of October. In addition, this proposal is consistent with best business practices, as a shortened registration period will reduce the Office's temporary staffing needs which are required during attorney registration season for telephone support.

 Interested persons are invited to submit written comments regarding the proposed amendments to the Office of the Secretary, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, PO Box 62625, Harrisburg, PA 17106-2625, Facsimile number (717-231-3381), Email address Dboard.comments@pacourts.us on or before November 26, 2018.

By the Disciplinary Board of the
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

JESSE G. HEREDA, 
Executive Director

Annex A

TITLE 204. JUDICIAL SYSTEM GENERAL PROVISIONS

PART V. PROFESSIONAL ETHICS AND CONDUCT

Subpart B. DISCIPLINARY ENFORCEMENT

CHAPTER 83. PENNSYLVANIA RULES OF DISCIPLINARY ENFORCEMENT

Subchapter B. MISCONDUCT

Rule 219. Annual registration of attorneys.

 (a) Every attorney admitted to practice law in this Commonwealth shall pay an annual fee of $120.00 and electronically file the annual fee form provided for in this rule by July 1. The fee shall be collected under the supervision of the Attorney Registration Office, which shall make the annual fee form available for filing through a link on the Board's website (http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org) or directly at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us. The said fee shall be used to defray the costs of disciplinary administration and enforcement under these rules, and for such other purposes as the Board shall, with the approval of the Supreme Court, from time to time determine. Upon an attorney's written request submitted to the Attorney Registration Office and for good cause shown, the Attorney Registration Office shall grant an exemption from the electronic filing requirement and permit the attorney to file the annual fee form in paper form.

Official Note: Pa.R.P.C. 1.15(u) imposes an additional annual fee for use by the IOLTA Board, and Pa.R.D.E. 502(b) imposes an additional annual fee for use by the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security.

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 (c) On or before May 15 of each year, the Attorney Registration Office shall transmit to all attorneys re-quired by this rule to pay an annual fee a notice by e-mail to register electronically by July 1. Failure to receive notice shall not excuse the filing of the annual fee form or payment of the annual fee.

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 (f) Any attorney who fails to complete registration by July [31] 16 shall be automatically assessed a non-waivable late payment penalty established by the Board. A second, non-waivable late payment penalty established by the Board shall be automatically added to the delinquent account of any attorney who has failed to complete registration by August [31] 1, at which time the continued failure to comply with this rule shall be deemed a request to be administratively suspended. Thereafter, the Attorney Registration Office shall certify to the Supreme Court the name of every attorney who has failed to comply with the registration and payment requirements of this rule, and the Supreme Court shall enter an order administratively suspending the attorney. The Chief Justice may delegate the processing and entry of orders under this subdivision to the Prothonotary. Upon entry of an order of administrative suspension, the Attorney Registration Office shall transmit by certified mail, addressed to the last known mailing address of the attorney, or by electronic means, the order of administrative suspension and a notice that the attorney shall comply with Enforcement Rule 217 (relating to formerly admitted attorneys), a copy of which shall be included with the notice.

 For purposes of assessing the late payment penalties prescribed by this subdivision (f), registration shall not be deemed to be complete until the Attorney Registration Office receives a completed annual fee form and satisfactory payment of the annual fee and of all outstanding collection fees and late payment penalties. If a check in payment of the delinquency has been returned to the Board unpaid, a collection fee, as established by the Board under subdivision (d)(2) of this rule, shall be added to the attorney's delinquent account and registration shall not be deemed to be complete until the delinquent account has been paid in full.

 The amount of the late payment penalties shall be established by the Board annually pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (h)(3) of this rule.

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[Pa.B. Doc. No. 18-1658. Filed for public inspection October 26, 2018, 9:00 a.m.]

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1  72,465 attorneys

2  72,452 attorneys



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