First Amendment

6th Circuit rules for workers’ comp law firm challenging ban on solicitation of claimants

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An Ohio law firm that mailed advertising to workers’ compensation claimants has succeeded in its First Amendment challenge to a state law that banned such solicitations for legal representation.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati ruled July 8 for Bevan & Associates in Boston Heights and its lawyers Thomas Bevan and Patrick Walsh. Law360 has coverage, while How Appealing links to the opinion.

The state law banned anyone from soliciting the authority to represent a claimant or employer in workers’ comp cases. “As written, this prohibition is repugnant to the free speech clause of the First Amendment,” the 6th Circuit said in an opinion by Judge John Bush, an appointee of President Donald Trump.

The state had argued that the solicitation ban was part of a larger statutory scheme, adopted in 2006, that restricts access to claimant address information from the state workers’ compensation bureau. The state law makes one exception, allowing access for journalists.

Bevan & Associates got around the restriction by hiring a journalistic service and an apparent journalist to access claimant information for its marketing campaigns.

The law firm filed the First Amendment suit after the journalist received a subpoena from a grand jury investigating a possible violation of the law.

Even if the Bevan firm violated the law regarding access to claimant information, the issue is not relevant to whether the solicitation ban is constitutional, the appeals court said. By its plain terms, the statute bans all solicitation of claimants, no matter how the information was obtained, the court said.

“The statute, as written, bars both in-person and written solicitation, with or without the use of ill-gotten claimant information,” Bush wrote.

The case is Bevan & Associates v. Yost.

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