Sees forced disclosure as privacy invasion

December 9, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

Anticipating a number of problems, especially regarding rights of privacy, Brooklyn Bar Association president Andrew Fallek observed that “Most people are not asked to tell how much they donate to a church, for example. Telling how much money you give to something is offensive to a lot of people in this state.”

Meanwhile, the issue looms ominously on the legal horizon despite the May 2015 adjournment. Attorneys will be allowed to waive confidentiality and make their reports subject to disclosure, it was reported in the New York Law Journal. Forms are being created that feature that option.

Beginning May 1, 2015, lawyers have been required to report their pro bono donations on the forms filed when registering as attorneys once every two years. That requirement remains in effect.

Most recently, Appellate Division Presiding Justice Gail Prudenti has urged modification of these unpopular requirements.

She said that in order to give lawyers “more notice as to the public nature” of the pro bono reporting requirement, the Administrative Board of the Courts will create a two-year “phase-in period to give attorneys the right to choose whether their reported data should be publicly disclosed.”

Prudenti added that “This strikes a balance between the bar’s privacy concerns and the court system’s long-term interest in sharing information about our attorneys’ extraordinary pro bono efforts.”

The strong response from the bar has caused others at OCA to pause as well. Spokesman David Bookstaver said the courts had not released the pro bono donation data from any attorney’s forms since the requirement went into effect on May 1. “We haven’t given anything out because this has been a source of contention,” Bookstaver said.