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decided: September 12, 1986.


Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission in the case of Felix Thau, No. 84-020-A and in the case of Eileen Maunus, No. 84-020-B.


Patrick M. McHugh, for petitioners.

John J. Contino, General Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judges Doyle and Colins dissent.

Author: Crumlish

[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 495]

Felix Thau and Eileen Maunus appeal a State Ethics Commission (Commission) order upholding its Advice of Counsel opinion*fn1 directing them to comply with the financial reporting and disclosure requirements of Section 4 of the State Ethics Act.*fn2 We reverse.

Thau, a deputy chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and Maunus, an assistant counsel to the Board, declined to file the financial statements on

[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 496]

    the basis of Ballou v. State Ethics Commission, 56 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 240, 424 A.2d 983 (1981), aff'd on other grounds, 496 Pa. 127, 436 A.2d 186 (1982). The Commission, after reviewing and partially distinguishing these cases, rejected the exemption claims.

Our scope of review of a Commission decision is limited to determining whether constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law has been committed or the necessary factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence. Phillips v. State Ethics Commission, 79 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 491, 470 A.2d 659 (1984).

Thau and Maunus argue that Ballou and Kremer v. State Ethics Commission, 503 Pa. 358, 469 A.2d 593 (1983), control the issue presented. In Ballou, this Court held that a municipal solicitor, although a public employee,*fn3 was not required to comply with the financial disclosure provisions because the Supreme Court has exclusive authority to regulate and control the conduct of attorneys under Article V, ยง 10(c) of the Pennsylvania Constitution.*fn4 The Supreme Court adopted a similar analysis in Kremer, striking down the financial disclosure requirements of the Ethics Act as they applied

[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 497]

    to judges because disclosure infringed upon its constitutional authority to supervise the operation of the courts. Based upon Ballou and Kremer, we are constrained to conclude that Thau and Maunus, as attorneys and officers of the court, are likewise subject to the Supreme Court's exclusive regulatory authority over the legal profession and the courts.*fn5

The Commission contends that, as there is no apparent inconsistency between the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics Act and the regulations that the Supreme Court has imposed on the professional conduct of attorneys,*fn6 Thau and Maunus should be required to file a financial disclosure statement. We disagree.

While our reading of the respective financial disclosure provisions reveals no apparent conflict, we believe that legislative imposition of such a requirement upon officers of the court violates the doctrine of separation of powers, despite an attorney's status as a "public employee." The Supreme Court has declared that

[ 100 Pa. Commw. Page 498]

    it has inherent and exclusive power to supervise the conduct of attorneys who are its officers (which power is reasserted in Section 10(c) of Article V of the Constitution of Pennsylvania) and in furtherance thereof promulgates these Page 498} rules which shall supersede all other court rules and statutes pertaining to disciplinary enforcement heretofore promulgated.

Code of Professional Responsibility, Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement No. 103 (emphasis added). Thus, we hold that the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics Act are invalid as they apply to public employees performing professional legal duties.

Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the State Ethics Commission.


The orders of the State Ethics Commission, No. 84-020-A and No. 84-020-B dated December 27, 1984, are reversed.

Judges Doyle and Colins dissent.



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