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204 Pa. Code Rule 8.3. Reporting Professional Misconduct.

Rule 8.3. Reporting Professional Misconduct.

 (a)  A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

 (b)  A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

 (c)  This Rule does not require disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6 or information gained by a lawyer or judge while participating in an approved lawyers assistance program.


   (1) Self-regulation of the legal profession requires that members of the profession initiate disciplinary investigation when they know of a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers have a similar obligation with respect to judicial misconduct. An apparently isolated violation may indicate a pattern of misconduct that only a disciplinary investigation can uncover. Reporting a violation is especially important where the victim is unlikely to discover the offense.

   (2) A report about misconduct is not required where it would involve violation of Rule 1.6. However, a lawyer should encourage a client to consent to disclosure where prosecution would not substantially prejudice the client’s interests.

   (3) If a lawyer were obligated to report every violation of the Rules, the failure to report any violation would itself be a professional offense. Such a requirement existed in many jurisdictions but proved to be unenforceable. This Rule limits the reporting obligation to those offenses that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent. A measure of judgment is, therefore, required in complying with the provisions of this Rule. The duty to report involves only misconduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects. The term ‘‘substantial’’ refers to the seriousness of the possible offense and not the quantum of evidence of which the lawyer is aware.

   (4) While a lawyer may report professional misconduct at any time, the lawyer must report misconduct upon acquiring actual knowledge of misconduct. The discretionary reporting of misconduct should not be undertaken for purposes of tactical advantage over another lawyer, to punish or inconvenience another for a personal or professional slight, or to harass another lawyer.

   (5) A report should be made to the bar disciplinary agency unless some other agency, such as a peer review agency, is more appropriate in the circumstances. Similar considerations apply to the reporting of judicial misconduct.

   (6) The duty to report professional misconduct does not apply to a lawyer retained to represent a lawyer whose professional conduct is in question. Such a situation is governed by the Rules applicable to the client-lawyer relationship.

   (7) Information about a lawyer’s or judge’s misconduct or fitness may be received by a lawyer in the course of that lawyer’s participation in an approved lawyers or judges assistance program. In that circumstance, providing for an exception to the reporting requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule encourages lawyers and judges to seek treatment through such a program. Conversely, without such an exception, lawyers and judges may hesitate to seek assistance from these programs, which may then result in additional harm to their professional careers and additional injury to the welfare of clients and to the public. The Rules do not otherwise address the confidentiality of information received by a lawyer or judge participating in an approved lawyers assistance program; such an obligation, however, may be imposed by the rules of the program or other law.

   (8) In addition to reporting a violation of another lawyer, a lawyer is required by the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to self-report in certain circumstances. Pa.R.D.E. 214(a) provides that an attorney convicted of a crime shall report the fact of that conviction within 20 days to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. For purposes of that rule, the term ‘‘crime’’ means an offense that is punishable by imprisonment in the jurisdiction of conviction, whether or not a sentence of imprisonment is actually imposed. It does not include parking violations or summary offenses, both traffic and non-traffic, unless a term of imprisonment is actually imposed.

   (9) Likewise, Pa.R.D.E. 216(e) requires an attorney who has been transferred to disability inactive status or disciplined in another court or by any body authorized by law or by rule of court to conduct disciplinary proceedings against attorneys by any state or territory of the United States or of the District of Columbia, a United States court, or by a federal administrative agency or a military tribunal, by suspension, disbarment, or revocation of license or pro hac vice admission, or who has resigned from the bar or otherwise relinquished his or her license to practice while under disciplinary investigation in another jurisdiction, to report the fact of that transfer, suspension, disbarment, revocation or resignation to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania within 20 days after the date of the order, judgment or directive imposing or confirming the discipline or transfer to disability inactive status.


   The provisions of this Rule 8.3 amended March 19, 2012, effective in 30 days; 42 Pa.B. 1637; amended April 18, 2019, effective in 30 days, 49 Pa.B. 2209. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (385452) and (369551).

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