PRINTER'S NO. 1775
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE RESOLUTION
No.
114
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY CUTLER, KERWIN, B. MILLER, PENNYCUICK, HAMM,
KEEFER, LEWIS, C. WILLIAMS, STAMBAUGH, DIAMOND, DOWLING,
SMITH, GROVE, FEE, RYAN, SCHMITT, ROZZI, HELM, MIZGORSKI,
HERSHEY, OWLETT, MENTZER, BERNSTINE, THOMAS, ROWE AND GLEIM,
JUNE 10, 2021
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON STATE GOVERNMENT, JUNE 10, 2021
A RESOLUTION
Urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to improve its rules to
more effectively promote public confidence in the integrity
of the judiciary, judicial employees and attorneys formerly
employed by government entities.
WHEREAS, The Public Official and Employee Ethics Act imposes
certain responsibilities and burdens on public officials and
public employees for the purpose of promoting public confidence
in government; and
WHEREAS, Three of the cornerstone provisions contained in the
Public Official and Employee Ethics Act to promote public
confidence include the requirement that public officials and
public employees complete a Statement of Financial Interests on
an annual basis, a one-year prohibition on public officials and
employees from representing a person on "any matter before the
governmental body with which [the official or employee] has been
associated" and a prohibition against accepting honoraria; and
WHEREAS, The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission, in an effort to
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provide greater public accessibility to records, makes all
Statements of Financial Interests filed with the commission
available in a searchable database on its publicly accessible
Internet website; and
WHEREAS, With very limited exception, gifts received over the
course of a calendar year by public officials and public
employees with an aggregate value of at least $250 must be
reported on the Statement of Financial Interests; and
WHEREAS, Gifts received from lobbyists in excess of the
threshold value amount must be reported regardless of the
personal or familial relationship between the lobbyist and the
public official or public employee; and
WHEREAS, Transportation, lodging and hospitality received by
a public official or public employee "in connection with" their
position must be reported if the aggregate value exceeds $650
from each source in the calendar year; and
WHEREAS, The one-year prohibition on public officials and
employees from representing a person before the person's former
employer is a prophylactic rule that promotes integrity in the
operation of government, avoiding both impropriety and the
appearance of impropriety; and
WHEREAS, No public official or public employee may accept an
honorarium, which is defined as a "payment made in recognition
of published works, appearances, speeches and presentations and
which is not intended as consideration for the value of such
services which are nonpublic occupational or professional in
nature"; and
WHEREAS, Under section 10 of Article V of the Constitution of
Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exercises "general
supervisory and administrative authority" over the courts, has
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the power to prescribe general rules governing practice,
procedure and the conduct of the courts and the power to
prescribe rules governing the practice of law; and
WHEREAS, Pursuant to its authority under section 10 of
Article V of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court has exempted the courts from many provisions of
the Public Officers and Employees Ethics Act and has chosen
instead to establish its own rules; and
WHEREAS, The differences between the requirements imposed on
judicial officers and employees and those imposed on other
public officers and employees in the Commonwealth gives the
House of Representatives cause for concern; and
WHEREAS, Although the judges, justices and employees of the
Unified Judicial System file Statements of Financial Interests
on an annual basis, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has
effectively limited access to the Statements of Financial
Interests by ordering that, "All statements of financial
interest filed . . . shall be made available for public
inspection and copying during regular office hours"; and
WHEREAS, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's rules appear to be
less stringent as they relate to the reporting of the receipt of
gifts, transportation, lodging and hospitality, specifically
excluding "[G]ifts, loans, bequests, benefits, or other things
of value from friends, relatives, or other persons, including
lawyers, whose appearances or interest in a proceeding pending
or impending before the judge would in any event require
disqualification of the judge under Rule 2.11." and "ordinary
social hospitality" regardless of the aggregate value over the
course of the calendar year; and
WHEREAS, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that a
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nonlawyer engaged in lobbying is not engaged in the practice of
law, while a lawyer engaged in the same activity is engaged in
the practice of law; and
WHEREAS, This holding leads to a situation where an attorney
may resign from government service and engage in lobbying the
agency with which the attorney formerly associated immediately
upon leaving government employ; and
WHEREAS, In addition to their judicial salaries, judges and
justices may accept honoraria, stipends, fees, wages, salaries,
royalties or other compensation for speaking, teaching and
writing; and
WHEREAS, The House of Representatives finds that these
shortcomings in transparency and integrity in government demand
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's immediate attention; therefore
be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives urge the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court to immediately address the
shortcomings in its oversight duties under section 10 of Article
V of the Constitution of Pennsylvania by doing the following:
(1) Make Statements of Financial Interests available on
a publicly accessible Internet website.
(2) Require more restrictive rules on the reporting of
the receipt of gifts, transportation, lodging and
hospitality.
(3) Impose a one-year prohibition on the attorneys
leaving government service and lobbying the governmental body
with which the attorney has been associated.
(4) End the practice of judges and justices receiving
honoraria.
(5) Conduct a full examination of its ethical and
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financial reporting requirements for judges, justices and
employees to determine whether additional changes to those
requirements would promote greater transparency and further
avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety;
and be it further
RESOLVED, That this resolution be transmitted to the Chief
Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
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