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Lawyer’s Free-Speech Ethics Challenge Inspires Legal Blogger’s Novel

Posted Mar 22, 2011 9:24 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Kentucky lawyer who criticized a decision by the state’s Legislative Ethics Commission is in the middle of an ethical controversy once again that is the fictional subject of a blogger's new novel.

Lawyer John Berry Jr. claims in a suit against the Kentucky Bar Association that he had a First Amendment right to criticize the Legislative Ethics Commission and to share his objections with reporters. U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves is expected to rule soon on dueling motions for summary judgment in the suit, which challenges an ethics warning letter issued by the bar, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

Berry’s plight inspired another lawyer, blogger Stan Billingsley, to write a “barely veiled fictional account” of the case, the Herald-Leader says. The title is: Alice vs. Wonderland: A Chilling Tale of the Abuse of Power in the Name of Lawyer's Ethics. Billingsley has mailed copies of his book to the state bar's board of governors and the supreme court.

"This is a very important case because free speech is, I think, going out of style," Billingsley told the Herald-Leader.

Berry had filed his suit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union after receiving the warning letter from the Kentucky Bar Association.

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