Saturday, September 3, 2016

Florida Bar appears to be going forward with proposal to amend the Rules of Professional Conduct in spite of finding that the proposal is most likely unconstitutional

Back in 2015, in a case called Searcy v Florida Bar, a Federal District Court Judge enjoined the Florida Bar from enforcing a rule prohibiting truthful claims of expertise. The Bar had argued that potential clients would be misled into assuming that lawyers who advertise that they “specialize in" or that they have “expertise” in a certain area of the law are board certified.  However, the Court found no evidence to support this argument and held that, because the rule essentially banned attorneys from making true statements that describe their areas of practice, it concluded the rule was unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  Accordingly, the court enjoined the bar from prohibiting the plaintiffs from making truthful statements on websites, blogs or social media about their specialty and expertise.  Go here for more information.

Notwithstanding this decision, the Florida Bar has expressed its view in a proposed amendment to the state's Rules of Professional Conduct and will ask the Florida Supreme Court to approve it.  You can read the proposed new language and get more information here.

As I have argued many times over the years, I think states' attempts to ban lawyers from saying they "specialize" in a certain area of the law are ridiculous.  I made my case against this view back in 2011 in reaction to a case from Indiana (here) and then again to the news about the case in Louisiana (here) and was happy to see a court reaching what I believe to be the correct result here

For that reason, I think the decision in Searcy was correct and that this new attempt by the Florida Bar to regulate speech should be defeated.

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