Philly Bar to Remove Member?

The Philadelphia Bar Association is pondering the removal of one its members, The Legal has learned.

The topic was the subject of a lengthy closed-doors session at last month’s meeting of the bar’s board of governors.


Details on the attorney and infractions involved are sketchy, but it’s apparently not related to any high-profile recent incidents involving local attorneys (like the one who was caught with his pants down standing next to an underage girl in the Criminal Justice Center.)

Jane Leslie Dalton of Duane Morris, the bar’s current chancellor, and Ken Shear, its longtime executive director, both declined to comment on the subject.

Interviews with a random sample of bar leaders from the last 15 years turned up few memories of similar situations.

One former chancellor, Abe Reich of Fox Rothschild, said that he can recall “less than a handful” of membership revocation scenarios in more than three decades of involvement with the bar.

Reich, who led the association in 1995, said that in his experience, a bar member won’t face a ban for a criminal act — in the past, association members have been convicted of crimes and still retained their membership, he said.

Instead, according to Reich, the membership revocation situations he remembers all involved behavioral problems: “Someone who probably was in dire need of some help and was acting out to members of the bar association staff in a totally inappropriate way.”

The bar’s bylaws do contain provisions concerning loss or suspension of membership privileges, but those only cover situations in which a member attorney has fallen behind in dues or has been officially disciplined by state authorities.

“It’s such a rare event that you are often creating new ground rules, short of whatever’s set forth in the bylaws,” Reich said.

However, the bylaws don’t specifically prohibit membership revocation, either. And as a nonprofit, the association enjoys a fair amount of latitude in regulating its own affairs.

One bar veteran, criminal defense attorney Jeff Lindy, said that if the bar is once again dealing with a member thought to be emotionally unstable, it could present an awkward situation from a legal standpoint.

The bar’s first option would be to approach the member in question and ask that he/she no longer visit association headquarters, according to Lindy. The next step would be to call the cops if the member does show up, and have the executive director explain to police that the person either presents a danger to the staff or intends to disrupt the organization’s business affairs.

Even still, Lindy said, there’s no guarantee the police would take action, and a restraining order might be necessary.

— Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter

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