As noted earlier, five different Supreme Court procedural rules committees (Criminal, Juvenile, Civil, Domestic Relations, and Orphans’ Court) have joined together to submit a proposal to revise all state-wide rules to require that local rules be published on-line by each county or court through its own website, rather than having a state-wide website for the publication of local rules.
The following comments have been sent by email to the Rules Committees of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (firstname.lastname@example.org).
These comments are in response to “Proposed Amendment of Pa.R.Crim.P. 105, Pa.Rs.J.C.P. 121 and 1121 and Pa.R.C.P. No. 239 with Rescission of Pa.R.C.P. No. 239.8,” 45 Pa.B. 5384 (8/29/2015).
The purpose of the proposed changes seems generally sound. Having local rules published on the websites of the counties (or local courts), rather than through the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), should make it easier for the public to find relevant rules, and should reduce the administrative burden on the AOPC resulting from duplicative and perhaps unnecessary on-line publications of local rules.
However, there are some details that should be clarified or added to distinguish between (a) the publication of rules at the time of adoption and (b) consolidated sets of rules that should be published for ease of reference. Specifically:
- Each county (or court) should be required to publish on its website consolidations of rules in numerical order, in addition to publishing any orders adopting or amending different rules at different times. For example, the official comment to Pa.R.Crim.P. Rule 105(G) continues to refer to a “consolidated set of rules” that must be maintained at the prothonotary’s office, but there is no similar requirement for copies of rules that must be published on-line because paragraph (F) refers only to publication at the time a rule is adopted.
- Consolidations of local rules should be updated not later than one year after any change to the local rules, so that on-line consolidations must be updated no more frequently than annually.
- It should be sufficient to let the Pennsylvania Bulletin serve as the reference for the history of changes to local rules, and so to prevent clutter (and possible confusion) each county (or court) should be required to maintain on-line copies of changes to rules only as long as the changes have not yet been incorporated into consolidations of local rules.
- Although many counties are now publishing local rules through their websites, finding the rules is often not easy. For example, local Orphans’ Court rules might be found through the web pages of the Register of Wills, the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court (if different from the Register), the Clerk of Courts (if that officer is also the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court), the Prothonotary, or in a separate location devoted to all local rules. As a convenience for possible compliance checking, as well as a service to the public, each court should be required to provide the AOPC with the URL (or URLs) for the consolidation of its local rules, or the webpage(s) on which orders and consolidations can be found, and the AOPC should publish an on-line index of links to those URLs. This on-line index would require some initial effort to set up, but would require very little maintenance because URLs for local rules should change rarely, if at all. (As an example of such an index, see http://resources.evans-legal.com/?p=1936 for my index of local Orphans’ Court rules.)
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.