Virginia State Bar violates First Amendment in Attacking Lawyer Blog

So says a brief filed on behalf of Horace Hunter, a Virginia Attorney who blogs on a variety of criminal law cases, including his own. The Virginia State Bar filed a formal ethics complaint against Hunter regarding his criminal law blog.

Rod Smolla, Virginia's top expert on the First Amendment on this matter, has filed a brief with the Virginia State Bar in which he attacks the "paternalistic" attitude of the bar, pointing out that Virginia's consumers are not so ill-informed as to be misled by anything that Hunter writes at his blog. Smolla also points out the Supreme Court requires a very high standard when a governmental agency seeks to restrict free speech, even if that speech comes from a lawyer who is also looking for new cases.

We applaud the Smolla brief on lawyer blogging and the First Amendment and we wonder how far the Virginia State Bar will go in expending resources to defend its position. Certainly, to the extent that mandatory bar dues are being used, attorney across the Commonwealth should be screaming about this waste of money.

Bottom line, attorneys should be absolutely free to write whatever they want at their blogs until the Bar had objective proof that something is misleading or deceptive. Long gone, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, are the days when a state can impose restrictions on a lawyers writings/talks/whatever on the chance that something is potentially misleading. Virginia consumers aren't stupid and the state bar should not be spending bar resources in an argument for paternalism.

You can read and download Rod Smolla's brief on lawyer blogging and the First Amendment here.
Ben Glass
Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.
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