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Regulation Requiring Detailed Explanations of Truthful Advertisement Unconstitutional
Description Appeals court held that regulations of the Florida Bar that prohibit attorneys from making truthful statements in their advertisements about their reputation, unless the ad contains detailed descriptions of the basis for the statements, violates First Amendment protection for truthful commercial speech.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words First Amendment; Commercial Speech; Advertising
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Mason, a criminal defense attorney in Orlando, was told by the Florida Bar that he could not state in an advertisement for his services that he is "'AV' Rated," the "Highest Rating" in the Martindale-Hubble National Law Directory, a true statement, unless the ad gave a "full explanation as to the meaning of the AV rating and how the publication chooses the participating attorneys," and unless the ad stated that the ratings are based on "opinions" from "confidential sources." The Bar prohibits "self-laudatory" statements in advertisements by Florida lawyers, which it said the use of the rating statement would be without the disclaimers. Mason sued, contending that the rule violated the First Amendment. The district court held for the Florida Bar; Mason appealed.
Decision Reversed. Commercial speech is entitled to substantial protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Because of the value inherent in truthful, relevant information, a state may ban only false, deceptive or misleading commercial speech. A state may restrict commercial speech that is not false, deceptive, or misleading only upon a showing that the restriction directly and materially advances a substantial state interest in a manner no more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. The fact that the public might not be familiar with Martindale-Hubble ratings of attorneys is not sufficient to allow the Bar to impose such restrictions on truthful advertising.
Citation Mason v. Florida Bar, - F.3d - (2000 WL 353085, 11th Cir., 2000)

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