Florida's lawyer advertising rules have long been criticized for being arcane and amongst the most restrictive in the country. But two of those rules suffered a blow at the hands of U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard earlier this month.
One rule banned "manipulative" advertising, while another prohibited the use of "any background sound other than instrumental music."
Judge Howard struck down these two provisions on First Amendment and due process grounds.
Plaintiff William Harrell Jr. filed suit after the state bar criticized his slogan, reports the Wall Street Journal. His advertisements urged the public not to "settle for less than you deserve." This was deemed "overly laudatory" and thus "manipulative."
The ban on "manipulative" advertisements is too vague, according to Judge Howard's ruling. What is manipulative? What conduct does the rule prohibit?
One official comment suggests that attorneys may only provide "useful, factual information." But again, every attorney has a different definition of what is useful.
As for the rule banning background noise, it violates attorneys' First Amendment rights. Little weight was given to the bar's argument that such sounds denigrate the profession, reports BNA.
While Florida attorneys are now free to adopt nicknames and advertise with rap music and barking dogs, it's unclear just what effect this ruling will have.
Revisions to Florida's lawyer advertising rules have been in the works for quite some time. And in July, the state bar submitted its recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court. Those recommendations seem to be consistent with Judge Howard's ruling.