To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
As my term as Pennsylvania Bar Association president concludes, I appreciate this opportunity to share with you some of the important initiatives the PBA undertook this year. I am also pleased to note the historic and exciting coincidence that my wife Kathleen was elected chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association during my term as Pennsylvania Bar Association president, and this has helped us to highlight not only our shared passion for bar service, but also the good work that both the state and local bars do on a daily basis.
The PBA had a series of important legislative successes during the last session. These included adoption of the new benefit corporation law under Title 15 and the act providing for recorders of deeds to receive electronic documents for recording real property. The PBA and other groups successfully opposed a form of property tax reform that would have undermined the stability of the tax base that funds our school districts in favor of a new approach that would impose taxes on professional services, including legal services. We are continuing to advocate for passage of several important pieces of legislation, including the uniform law on notarial acts prohibiting notaries from engaging in false advertising, and, unless licensed to practice law, from preparing legal documents, providing legal advice or purporting to act as a “notario publico.”
The PBA approved and submitted persuasive amicus curiae briefs to Pennsylvania’s appellate courts on issues of importance to the profession and to our clients, including the scope of the attorney-client privilege, as well as the fair and just application of appellate rules of civil procedure.
We have more than 50 active sections and committees, including a revived In-House Counsel Committee, which I encourage all of you to join.
We led a very timely campaign last fall to increase public awareness of the importance of reporting suspected child abuse. We partnered with state agencies and several dozen local bars to provide critical information and available resources via brochures, newspaper ads and on the Internet. The community and media response has been very favorable.
Some challenges faced by our leadership were not fully anticipated, such as the indictment and conviction of a Supreme Court justice. The PBA’s leadership promptly urged the appointment of a temporary justice and over a year later can now look forward to the appointment of an interim seventh justice so that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania can return to its full complement.
The formation of our Task Force on the Code of Judicial Conduct turned out to be quite timely, in light of events impacting our judiciary over the past year. We hope the task force’s recommendations will provide more helpful and concrete guidance to our judges in areas such as use of social media technology, recusal and disqualification standards and disclosure to lawyers and litigants of affiliations and campaign contributions where warranted.
Our support for pro bono efforts extended to backing an in-depth review of the access to justice gap coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the landmark Gideon v. Wainright decision. With the support of an ABA grant, we have partnered with the Philadelphia Bar Association, legal aid agencies and other stakeholders in urging the legislature to schedule public hearings on addressing the legal needs of the increasing numbers of self-represented parties who find themselves in court facing the loss of a home or the loss of custody of a child. We also initiated a new “Making a Difference” column in the Bar News featuring members who have performed outstanding pro bono service in their communities.
Indeed, it has been a tremendous honor to serve as PBA president. We are an association on the move, particularly in the legislative arena and in efforts to promote increased public confidence in our justice system. I invite you, if you are not a PBA member, to join us!
Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr.