As 2016 comes to an end, attorneys all across Pennsylvania are taking a moment to pause and reflect on the passage of another year. Nationally, the Trump presidency brings in an era of uncertainty and change that will impact our practices and the world for years to come. But 2016 also saw the resignation of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice for his participation in an email scandal and the conviction and sentencing of our attorney general. Another change, reflected locally and nationally, is the steady move toward legalization for marijuana. While unrelated, all these events touch on cultural shifts and caused rule changes that we focus on here.

In March, former Justice J. Michael Eakin retired from the bench, ending the controversy over charges that he violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, and Canons 2 and 5 of the 1974 code of Judicial Conduct, as amended, In re J. Michael Eakin, 13 JD 2015, 1 (2015). The complaint against Eakin stemmed from his role in “Porngate” (or “Hategate” as state Sen. Anthony Williams referred to it). In response to this controversy, the Judicial Conduct Board adopted a statement of policy (SOP). This SOP explained how the board intended to interpret and enforce the Code of Judicial Conduct and the Pennsylvania Constitution with regards to judicial misconduct which stems from the use of electronic communications.