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Law School Case Brief

Fla. Bar v. Went for It - 515 U.S. 618, 115 S. Ct. 2371 (1995)


It is well established that lawyer advertising is commercial speech and, as such, is accorded a measure of First Amendment, U.S. Const. amend. I, protection. Such First Amendment protection, of course, is not absolute.


Petitioner Florida Bar ("Bar") proposed an amendment to its rules governing attorney advertisement that sought to impose a 30-day restriction on targeted direct-mail solicitation of personal injury or wrongful death victims and their relatives. Respondent Went For It, Inc., an attorney referral service, and its owner, and attorney, ("Owner"), filed a lawsuit against the Bar in federal district court alleging the proposed rule violated the First and Fourth Amendments. The Owner was subsequently disbarred, and respondent John T. Blakely, an attorney was substituted as plaintiff. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Rejecting a magistrate's recommendation to the contrary, the district court granted respondents' motion and denied the Bar's motion. Th district court found the Bar's ne rule violated the First Amendment. On the Bar's appeal, the court of appeals affirmed. The Bar was granted a writ of certiorari.


Did the Bar's lawyer-advertising rules violate the First and Fourth amendment?




The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the appellate court's judgment. The Court ruled that the Bar's 30-day restriction withstood scrutiny under the test for determining the validity, under the First Amendment's free speech guarantee, of a restriction on commercial speech in that: (1) the Bar had asserted a substantial state interest in protecting the privacy and tranquility of potential clients from commercial intrusion upon their personal grief in times of trauma, and preventing the outrage and irritation with the state-licensed legal profession that the practice of direct solicitation only days after accidents had engendered; (2) evidence adduced by the Bar was sufficient to establish that the restriction targeted a concrete, non-speculative harm; and (3) the restriction was reasonably well tailored to its stated objective.

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