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The Problem of County Local Rules

July 10, 2008

One of the biggest problems of practicing law in the Commonwealth is the proliferation of separate county local rules.  As noted in this month’s editorial (which I helped author) in the YL Supplement of The Legal Intelligencer, there are sixty-seven counties, and all of them have separate local rules (there are actually sixty sets of local rules, as seven of those local rules are shared between two different counties). 

There are a couple reasons why we have separate county local rules.  In the olden days, lawyers had to be admitted to the bars of the county in which they practiced.  Additionally, the state rules of civil procedure are relatively general, and the Supreme Court has permitted counties to have their own rules so long as they did not conflict with state law or state rules. 

In a word, the system is preposterous.  When we pass the Pennsylvania bar, we are supposed to be authorized to practice law throughout the entire state, not just for one or two counties.  It’s one thing to have to learn procedural law, but there is no reason for us to learn 60 different systems of civil procedure if we practice throughout the state.  

As young lawyers, we often find it frustrating to have to familiarize ourselves with local county practice (and it’s not that easy to find the most current and complete local rules either).  Instead of concentrating on substance and proper representation of our clients, we have to instead waste time learning the separate rules and worry about making sure that the briefs do not exceed local length limitations or have blue backers when required. 

The local rules system has to change and follow most other states in having uniform rules.  New Jersey certainly does not seem to have a problem having one set of rules cover the entire state (filing something in Northern New Jersey is done the same way you would file it in Southern New Jersey).  It will take major revisions of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, but it can get done.  There may still be the need for some local rules, such as for hours of operation or the designation of the room to address filings, but there is absolutely no need to have sixty different comprehensive sets (typically over 100 pages) of county rules.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2008 8:42 pm

    I remember the first case I had in Bucks County. I always read local rules when I am in an unfamiliar county, so the first thing I did was read Bucks County’s local rules. They have (or had) a local rule that required attorneys to be admitted in Bucks County. I went so far as to make a few phone calls to determine how one would become admitted in Bucks County. I received various answers. Finally, someone told me to ignore it. I did. I agree, let’s go NJ-style and rock the uniform rules!

  2. July 14, 2008 2:35 am

    The PA rules definitely need to be the same through out the state. One of the reasons for the local rules was to keep the “big city” (i.e. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) attorneys from competing with the local county attorneys. As Stephanie said, some county rules require you to be admitted to practice in the local county. I believe that there are still some counties that require you to file pleadings and motions on those pointless blue backers!!

    Local county rules are a relic of a bygone era and should be abolished. All they do is increase the costs and access to justice for our clients. I will sign any petition, lobby whomever is necessary, do whatever is asked, to get local rules in PA abolished.

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