I stopped blogging after the Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising found that a statement of opinion posted on a law firm’s website, such as “tort reform benefits insurers,” violated Florida Bar Rule 4-7.13, since it was not “objectively verifiable.” My firm promptly filed a federal lawsuit to challenge this and other positions taken by the Standing Committee. I was told that, while the lawsuit was pending, I could continue to blog without fear of disciplinary action. But I felt very uncomfortable doing something that a Bar committee had declared to be a rules violation. Perhaps I was a little more sensitive than my colleagues because I was the attorney who had represented the firm before the Standing Committee on Advertising.
Last week, United States District Judge Robert L. Hinkle wrote that the Standing Committee’s interpretation of the Bar rules to prohibit opinion-based blogs “would obviously violate the First Amendment.” In fact, in the lawsuit, the Bar itself “backed away from these obviously unconstitutional positions; the Bar no longer asserts that it can prohibit an attorney from making political statements like these.”
So it is with a great sense of satisfaction, and no small sense of irony, that my first blog in over two years is about a federal judge declaring any effort to ban law firm blogs “obviously unconstitutional.” I look forward to exercising my First Amendment rights, on this website, during the months and years ahead. Now, on with the show!