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Avvo Files Motion to Dismiss

A few weeks ago, I participated in this discussion at Avvo, a new lawyer directory and ratings system. Mark Britton and Avvo didn't participate in the show, but now, their position was clarified with the filing of this 34-page, footnote-packed Motion to Dismiss

From my brief read of the Motion, it seems that courts have previously addressed the legality of ratings systems and generally concluded that they are protected by the First Amendment. In this post at Avvo's Blog, a press release states that:

“Americans have the constitutional right to rate everything from restaurants, beers, books, and movies to colleges, law schools, architecture, and airlines,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson, partner, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and Avvo’s counsel. “Lawyers routinely exercise their right to rate judges. It’s a wonderment these particular lawyers seem to believe that Americans shouldn’t rate them.”  Noting cases involving the California Bar Association, Martindale Hubbell, Esquire Publishing and The El Paso Times in which opinions about attorneys constituted protected speech, Avvo’s Motion to Dismiss cites extensive case law protecting media outlets’ First Amendment rights and rebuts the allegations in the Class Action Complaint. That complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on June 14, was initiated by Seattle attorney John Henry Browne whose Avvo Rating exposed a recent disciplinary action he received from the Washington State Bar Association.

Avvo isn't just fighting in the courtroom but on the PR front as well. As this post describes, Avvo has made some changes to its site that address some of the complaints raised in the lawsuit.

After reading the Avvo Motion, it seems to me that if lawyers are going to continue to oppose Avvo, they're going to have to come up with better arguments than, "I just don't like my rating." And moreover, as a recent op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman points out (excepted in this post from the Moderate Voice), the Internet is forcing all of us to change not what we do but how we do it. With bloggers and self-publishers abounding, we all have to zealously guard our online reputations. Whether Avvo and its ratings system survive or not, there will always be information out on the Web about us, some of it positive, some not so much. That's a reality of today's Internet Age -- and one that I willingly accept in exchange for all of the benefits and possibilities. Do you?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 29, 2007 at 05:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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