Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Return from the Dead.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 28, 2011

No. 665

A lawyer I know once described disbarment as capital punishment for lawyers. Very apt.  Nevertheless, some lawyers do find their way back.  The Newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of Pennsylvania recently printed the following comment.

You Can’t (Always) Go Home Any More

Lawyers seeking reinstatement from disbarment or suspension generally have a good chance of succeeding. In 2010, 10 applications for reinstatement from disbarment, suspension, or disability status were granted, and only one denied.

However, reinstatement is not guaranteed, as one former Pennsylvania attorney found out. Frederick C. Sturm III had been disbarred since 1982, as a result of his conviction for mail fraud in an arson scheme, for making false statements in a passport application, and for tax violations. After serving a jail term, he worked for more than twenty years as a paralegal in his wife’s law firm.

He filed a petition for reinstatement. The Disciplinary Board found that the crimes he had committed were so severe that he could not meet his burden of proof under the test in Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Keller506 A.2d 872 (Pa., 1986), even after the passage of nearly thirty years. Also, the Board found that he had not expressed remorse for his actions, and that his answers on certain questions were evasive and not credible. The Board recommended that the petition for reinstatement be denied, and the Supreme Court did so by order dated July 6, 2011.

A lawyer seeking reinstatement has the burden of proof under Rule 218(c) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement to show that he or she has the moral qualifications, competency and learning in law required for admission to practice law in this Commonwealth and that the resumption of the practice of law within the Commonwealth by such person will be neither detrimental to the integrity and standing of the bar or the administration of justice nor subversive of the public interest.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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