CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-DISCIPLINARY BOARD OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA EQUAL RIGHTS PROVISION

July 11th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Greenberg v. Goodrich, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52881 (E.D. Pa. March 24, 2022) (Kenney, J.)  This Court fully commends and supports the aims and intentions of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) in its creation of the ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) as a statement of an ideal and as a written conviction that we must be constantly vigilant and work towards eliminating discrimination and harassment in the practice of law. If the ABA were to apply the Model Rule as a standard to maintain good standing for its voluntary members, it would indeed be the gold standard. It is a measure that most members of the ABA would aspire to, as would the vast number of those in the profession not represented by the ABA. When, however, the ABA standard is adopted by government regulators and applied to all Pennsylvania licensed lawyers, as in this instance by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (the “Board”), it must pass constitutional analysis and muster. The ABA’s power over its voluntary membership is of an immensely different kind, quality, and force than that of the government over its constituents. The government cannot approach free speech in the same manner in which the ABA may choose to do so with its voluntary membership. Here, the Board adopted its own version of the ABA Model Rule and Plaintiff Zachary Greenberg challenges the Rule on the basis that it violates his individual right to free speech. Plaintiff argues that the Board should not have the power to investigate, interrogate, and discipline attorneys based on this Rule, and the regulation is otherwise too vague to equitably enforce. In conclusion, the Court finds that Rule 8.4(g) is an unconstitutional infringement of free speech according to the protections provided by the First Amendment. The Court also finds that Rule 8.4(g) is unconstitutionally vague under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement and denies Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]