Pennsylvania Record

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pa. Supreme Court considering making uniform changes to its procedural rule formatting

Attorneys & Judges

By Nicholas Malfitano | Aug 22, 2019


Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is considering changes to the way it formats rule citation, which one official says is meant to bring a sense of uniformity and cohesion to the way the state high court’s rules are written.

The rule is not coming from the Civil Procedural Rules Committee but rather from the Supreme Court itself, said Daniel Durst, the Pennsylvania Judicial Center’s Chief Counsel. 

“They are supposed to be non-substantive changes, meaning more stylistic changes," he said.

“Right now, we have variation within rules, within bodies of rules and along the bodies of rules, and this is intended to bring some uniformity and consistency among all the [court] rules."

At the present time, all bodies of rules, except the Rules of Civil Procedure, include associated commentary within the "rule" following the rule text. It is proposed that a "rule" adopted by the Supreme Court and entered on the docket will be comprised of two parts: 1) The rule text – the part which sets forth requirements; and 2) The commentary – the part which informs the application of the rule text.

Currently, terms such as “notes," “commentary” and “reports” are interspersed within the text of Pennsylvania court rules.

• A “note” would be another authority which may assist the reader in applying a specific provision of a rule, such as other rules, statutes or case law.

• A “commentary” is more expansive than a note, follows the rule text and provides additional context for the rule itself.

• A “report” contains statements specifically from a Rules Committee, which are separate documents not reviewed or approved by the Supreme Court – but which may present the rationale for the rule or the thought process behind which the rule was developed.

The new changes are meant to streamline and make consistent the use of the above terms and related formatting.

“Commentary would be part of the rule, but not the rule text,” according to the publication report, which added that “a uniform approach to commentary and reports should resolve confusion, as well as assist users with a consistent understanding of their utility.”

“The restyling of the rules will be phased throughout all bodies of rules at anticipated six-month intervals, beginning in 2020. Given the breadth of some revisions, a rescission and replacement of entire bodies of rules is under consideration, but not yet definitively decided,” the publication report went on to say.

“The revisions are not intended to be substantive, so publication for comment prior to adoption is not contemplated. The proposed amendments concerning citations would be implemented through the restyling.”

The proposal would formally modify Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Administration 101 and 103, Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 51 and 129, Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure Before Magisterial District Judges 201 and Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Rule 1.1.

Comments on the measure may be submitted until Nov. 15.   

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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