Pennsylvania Supreme Court Adopts New Disciplinary Rule Including Discrimination as Misconduct

Last updated on February 20th, 2022 at 02:48 pm

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On June 8, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved adoption of Rule 8.4(g) broadening the definition of misconduct to include the following:

g) in the practice of law, by words or conduct, knowingly manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment or discrimination, as those terms are defined in applicable federal, state or local statutes or ordinances, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, harassment or discrimination based upon race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules. You can find the Court’s Order, which becomes effective in six months, here.

The American Bar Association adopted a slightly different version of Pennsylvania’s new rule in 2016, here. Since then, the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association,  and other bar associations in the state have campaigned to adopt a similar anti-discrimination provision to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

The Legal Intelligencer provided a good analysis of the new Rule here, with comments from me, along with my colleagues, Abe Reich and Thomas Wilkinson. As I stated in the article, I believe the adoption of this Rule is the right step at the right time.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association issued a statement on the passage of the Rule, found here, as did the Philadelphia Bar Association, found here.

Opposition to the new Rule was promoted by The Christian Legal Society and can be found here.

The Volokh Conspiracy has it’s own take on the new Rule, and provides some interesting historical perspectives on the different versions of the Rule that were previously rejected here.

Let me know in the comments what you think of the new rule and how it will affect our practice.  

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