Pro Bono Reporting to Remain Confidential, for Now
ALBANY - Information provided by New York attorneys about the number of pro bono hours and the amount of money they donate annually will not be subject to public disclosure, at least for now, the Office of Court Administration said Thursday.
The confidentiality policy will be effective immediately and continue through at least April 2015, according to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti. Attorneys will be allowed to waive confidentiality and make their reports subject to disclosure, though the courts said it will take some time for new forms to reflect that option.
Beginning May 1, 2013, lawyers have been required to report their pro bono donations on the forms they file when reregistering as attorneys once every two years. That requirement remains in effect.
Court administrators had been criticized by attorneys, including New York State Bar Association President David Schraver, for making the reporting subject to public scrutiny (NYLJ, June 19).
Prudenti said in a statement that as a way of giving 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."
"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," Prudenti said.
OCA spokesman David Bookstaver said court administrators intend to reinstitute public disclosure of the pro bono information in April 2015.
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.
Neither Lippman nor Prudenti would not comment on the policy change announced Thursday past the chief administrative judge's statements released through OCA, Bookstaver said.
The Administrative Board is comprised of Lippman and the four presiding justices of the Appellate Division.