Attorneys Have Right to Publish Praise from Judges – Federal Appeals Court Rules

The Rainmaker Institute published this article earlier this week:

free speechA federal appeals court issued a ruling yesterday that attorneys have a First Amendment right to publish ads that quote judges praising them, a decision that reverses a lower court ruling.

The case involves a New Jersey employment attorney, Andrew Dwyer, who initially published praise from two jurists on his website.  The published quotes were excerpts from unpublished (but publicly available) judicial opinions.   One of the judges sent Dwyer a letter requesting that his quote be removed from the website.  Dwyer refused because he did not believe the quote was misleading or false.

The matter was forwarded to a committee of the New Jersey Bar, resulting in a proposed guideline that barred attorneys from using a quotation from a judge or court opinion regarding the attorney’s abilities or legal services.  Dwyer argued that the new guideline was an unconstitutional ban on free speech.

Fast-forward to 2012, when the NJ Supreme Court approved an amended guideline saying that attorneys could use quotes from judges or opinions, but that the full text of the opinion must be used instead of excerpts.

Dwyer filed suit against the NJ Bar committee that developed the guideline before it went into effect and moved for a TRO and preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the guideline.  A NJ District Court denied the request.  Both parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which the District Court granted to the committee.

Dwyer then appealed and yesterday, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, calling the guideline “onerous” and saying that it imposed an unconstitutional burden on Dwyer:

“Guideline 3 as applied to Dwyer’s accurate quotes from judicial opinions thus violates his First Amendment right to advertise his commercial services. Requiring Dwyer to reprint in full on his firm’s website the opinions noted above is not reasonably related to preventing consumer deception.”

This decision could have farther-reaching effects in terms of how attorneys use testimonials in their advertising.  Will certainly be interesting to watch!

Stephen Fairley

About Stephen Fairley

Two-time international best-selling author, Stephen Fairley is the CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation's largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small law firms and solo practitioners. Over 8,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven Rainmaker Marketing System.

A nationally recognized attorney marketing expert, he has been named, “America’s Top Marketing Coach,” and has spoken numerous times for over 30 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations. Stephen has a large virtual footprint with his highly successful legal marketing blog and strong social media presence in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

He has appeared in Inc and Entrepreneur magazines, has authored 10 books, taken 14 cruises, and traveled to 33 countries. He resides in Phoenix with his wife of 17 years. Connect with him at:, , and @stephenfairley.

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