PBA President Issues Statement of Continuing Support for Professional Rule Change Expanding Lawyer Misconduct to Include Bias, Prejudice, Harassment and Discrimination

Harrisburg (March 17, 2021) – Pennsylvania Bar Association President David E. Schwager issued the following statement following the voluntary dismissal of an appeal seeking to block an addition to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct:

“The Pennsylvania Bar Association remains committed to the expansion of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct to clearly state that acts of bias and prejudice, and engagement in harassment and discrimination by a lawyer practicing in Pennsylvania, are considered misconduct and serve as the basis to discipline violators. 

In September of 2019, the PBA Board of Governors unanimously approved a request of the association’s Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee to express its approval of additional language about bias, prejudice, harassment and discrimination to Rule 8.4. This proposed addition conforms with the PBA’s policy of November 2016 based on a recommendation of the PBA Commission on Women in the Profession.

The PBA-supported addition to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct is based on an antidiscrimination rule adopted by the American Bar Association, which has already been adopted in many other states.

Last August, the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute filed a civil rights suit against the members of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to block implementation of the rule. Last December, a district court granted a motion for a preliminary injunction and simultaneously denied the Disciplinary Board’s motion to dismiss. Yesterday, both parties voluntarily agreed to drop the appeal.

We are disappointed that the rule change has been stalled. We support any future efforts by the Disciplinary Board to expand the misconduct rule to root out acts of bias, prejudice, harassment and discrimination within the legal profession.”