Constitutional Law

Law firm sues Florida Bar over rules restricting what legal websites and blog posts can say

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A law firm has sued the Florida Bar and several of its officials, claiming that its legal ethics rules restricting law firm website content and what can be said in blog posts by attorneys are unconstitutional.

Filed Wednesday in federal court in Tallahassee by Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley and its five name partners, the suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the restrictions are unconstitutional and an injunction prohibiting the bar from enforcing them, according to Courthouse News and Reuters (sub. req.).

The bar’s application of a rule that claims made by lawyers must be “objectively verifiable” is so extreme that even Abraham Lincoln (who said in an 1852 newspaper ad that his legal services were provided with “promptness and fidelity”) could not have complied, the plaintiffs contend.

They also say the bar restrictions are unconstitutionally vague, at least as applied. For example, the plaintiffs trial firm was told that its description of past cases was “inherently misleading” because all “pertinent” facts were not included, the suit says. But when the firm sought guidance it could not get bar clarification of what was and was not considered pertinent.

A bar spokeswoman declined to comment when contacted by the news agency.

The firm is represented by Gregory Beck of Gupta Beck in Washington, D.C., and Richard Burton Bush of Bush & Augsburger in Tallahassee.

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