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PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPERS v. DISCIPLINARY BOARD SUPREME COURT PENNSYLVANIA AND ALBERT B. GERBER (08/27/76)

decided: August 27, 1976.

PHILADELPHIA NEWSPAPERS, INC. AND ANTHONY LAME, PETITIONERS,
v.
THE DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA AND ALBERT B. GERBER



COUNSEL

Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Levy, Stephen J. Mathes, Philadelphia, for petitioners.

Mercer D. Tate, Robert L. Trescher, John Herron, Ricardo Calvin Jackson, Philadelphia, for respondents.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Eagen, J., dissents.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 468 Pa. Page 383]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is an action commenced by petitioners Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. and Anthony Lame, one of its reporters, requesting this Court to issue a Writ of Prohibition to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania prohibiting the Board from conducting a hearing on a petition that Albert B. Gerber be reinstated as a member of the bar.*fn1 Mr. Gerber voluntarily resigned from the bar in 1972 after having pleaded guilty

[ 468 Pa. Page 384]

    to various counts of federal securities fraud.*fn2 Early in 1976 he petitioned for reinstatement. Upon learning that petitioner Lame had sought admission to the reinstatement hearing when it should be held, Mr. Gerber requested the Board that the hearing be non-public. The Board agreed. This proceeding followed.

The issue raised in this action is an extremely narrow one. Petitioners do not allege that the Board's decision to bar the press from the hearing infringes on their First Amendment right to gather information.*fn3 Rather, the sole issue we are asked to address is whether under our present Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement*fn4 the Disciplinary Board has the authority, in its discretion, to conduct Mr. Gerber's hearing in camera. We hold that the Board's action was not in contravention of our rules nor an abuse of the Board's discretion. It follows that the limited attack on its decision must fail.

[ 468 Pa. Page 385]

Our Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement are silent on the question of the confidentiality of reinstatement proceedings.*fn5 The rules do, however, grant broad discretion to the Disciplinary Board to formulate rules to govern the conduct of proceedings before it. Thus Rule 17-5(c)(9) provides that the Board shall have the power "to adopt rules of procedure not inconsistent with these Rules." As a consequence, the Board can be said to have acted inconsistently with our Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, and hence improperly, only if public policy dictates that the rules be read as mandating that reinstatement hearings be open to the public. We do not believe that the rules should be so read.

A reinstatement proceeding is a searching inquiry into a lawyer's present professional and moral fitness to resume the practice of law. The object of concern is not solely the transgressions which gave rise to the lawyer's suspension or disbarrment, but rather the nature and extent of the rehabilitative ...


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