Attorney’s Website Posts Judges’ Praise: Another Victory for the First Amendment in Attorney Advertising?

An August 2014 decision continues to cause a stir among free speech supporters. The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a New Jersey attorney, overturning a June 2013 District Court’s ruling, finding that a New Jersey advertising guideline that prohibited attorneys from including “on a website or other advertisement, a quotation or excerpt from a court decision (oral or written) about the attorney’s abilities or legal services,” is unduly burdensome. The Third Circuit ruling will open the door for the New Jersey attorney to post, on his firm’s website, excerpts from unpublished opinions praising the quality of his work.

Free speech supporters have applauded the decision and believe it to be highly persuasive and likely to become national precedent. Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida in Gainesville, stated that the opinion is “important because it finally gives judicial pushback to an example of sweeping governmental overreach….” Similarly, First Amendment scholar Rodney A. Smolla, claims it “properly rejected the highly paternalistic view that consumers, including the potential clients of lawyers, are too unsophisticated to figure out for themselves that an accurately excerpted quotation from a judge, taken from the public record, is not a blanket endorsement of a lawyer’s abilities.”

Currently, the New Jersey attorney is waiting on the trial court to issue the order implementing the mandate from the Third Circuit and waiting to see if the state files a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court before reposting the excerpted quotes on his website. As of the publishing of this post, the quotes have not yet been reposted.

Click here to read more. Click her for the Third Circuit’s Ruling.

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