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Legal Ethics

6th Circuit Says Ky. Bar Chilled Lawyer’s Free Speech; He Had a Right to Criticize Public Agency

Posted Jul 27, 2012 3:40 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal appeals court has sided with a Kentucky lawyer who challenged, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, a threatened legal ethics case concerning his criticism of the state Legislative Ethics Commission ruling dismissing a case against a prominent politician.

The comments made by attorney John M. Berry Jr. were either based on facts or expressions of his own opinion, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained in its Friday decision (PDF).

Hence, the appellate panel held, the Kentucky Bar inappropriately chilled Berry's free-speech rights by warning him he could be punished under an ethics rule that bans reckless or false comments about judges.

A Courier-Journal article provides further details.

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