Sunday, September 27, 2020

Pennsylvania's newly adopted anti-discrimination rule (based on Model Rule 8.4(g)) won't go into effect until December but a lawsuit has already been filed claiming it is unconstitutional - UPDATED

Back in June, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted a revised version of the controversial anti-discrimination Model Rule (ABA Model Rule 8.4(g)). Last week a lawyer sued the state disciplinary authorities, saying the new rule (scheduled to go into effect in December) violates his free speech rights.

You can read the text of the rule here and a critique of if here, which explains that over the last four years, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania proposed three different versions of an anti-harassment.  According to this author, the approved version disregards earlier concerns about whether the rule may violate the First Amendment.

And now it is possible the courts will have to address that precise question because in early August an attorney with a non-profit legal group, filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking an injunction to block enforcement of the rule.  The complaint alleges that Pennsylvania’s Rule 8.4(g) will force the lawyer “to censor himself to steer clear of an ultimately unknown line so that his speech is not at risk of being incorrectly perceived as manifesting bias or prejudice.”

UPDATE 9/27/20:  You can read the complaint here.   The complaint alleges, among many other things that "the fear of misuse of Rule 8.4(g) is far from hypothetical. Activists have frequently used anti-discrimination rules and accusations of bigotry to harass speakers for political reasons" and that the plaintiff will have to self censor as a result.  The complaint also lists instances in which judges, including justices of the US Supreme Court, have been criticized for expression that some might have found offensive and that arguably might subject them to discipline under the newly approved rule.  

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