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Louisiana Lawyers Challenge New Ad Rules

Lawyers in Louisiana went to federal court yesterday hoping to block new lawyer-advertising rules from taking effect Dec. 1. The lawyers, assisted by the public interest organization Public Citizen, allege that the new rules violate the First Amendment and impose vague and unfair restrictions on how lawyers can communicate with consumers. The rules "would be among the most restrictive in the country," says a Public Citizen press release, "prohibiting slogans, descriptions of quality, testimonials, actor portrayals of clients, well-known spokespersons and other common advertising techniques."

In the complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Public Citizen is joined as plaintiff by lawyers William Gee III of Lafayette and Morris Bart of New Orleans. They contend that the Louisiana State Bar Association adopted the new rules "without considering any factual investigation or considering any evidence." They further argue that the rules were taken virtually verbatim from lawyer-advertising rules in New York that Public Citizen successfully challenged and in Florida that it is currently challenging. (The New York case is pending on appeal.)

"Louisiana's amended advertising rules impose a litany of restrictions that would bar a wide range of common advertising practices, such as the use of testimonials, actors, reenactments, and dramatizations, that are neither misleading nor otherwise harmful to consumers," the complaint alleges. "The motivation for the amendments appears to be hostility toward advertising lawyers and regulators' subjective ideas of good taste rather than protection of consumers from any demonstrable threat." Among the entities that submitted comments against the proposed rules was the Federal Trade Commission, which said they would hurt consumers by inhibiting competition and frustrating consumer choice.

Representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Loyola law school professor Dane S. Ciolino, Morris Bart partner Terry Loup, and Public Citizen lawyers Gregory A. Beck and Brian Wolfman. Charles B. Plattsmier, chief disciplinary counsel for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, told The Times-Picayune that he was reviewing the complaint and not ready to comment. See also this news report from WRNO Radio.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 24, 2008 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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