Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Florida Supreme Court imposes sanctions for use of pitbull imagery in advertising

Back in March I commented on a pending case in Florida in which the state requested the Supreme Court to impose sanctions on an attorney for describing himself as a pit bull lawyer and using an image of a pit bull on a blog, a Facebook page, on business cards and on the door to his office.  As I said back then, I find the use of the word and imagery tacky but the attempt by the state to impose sanctions is contrary to First Amendment principles and, as I said back then, complete nonsense.  You can read my my comment here.

I am writing about this again today because I just heard that the Court decided the case against the lawyer and imposed a reprimand, which, as you can imagine what I said in the previous paragraph, is wrong. The ABA Journal has the story here, which includes links to the complaint and other documents.

Unless the constitutional standards to determine how the state can justify regulating commercial speech have changed while I wasn't paying attention, the Court's decision can't be justified.  Unfortunately, it is also not surprising.  Remember this is the same court that decided Florida Bar v. Went for it, later affirmed by the US Supreme Court in one of the worst opinions in First Amendment jurisprudence ever. 

In the end, the position of the state of Florida is that it can ban the speech because someone may find it offensive.  But if we know one thing about the First Amendment, it is that it is there precisely to prevent  the state punishing speech because someone finds it offensive.  

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