Attorneys in trouble for ads

September 5, 2008
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Two Indianapolis attorneys received public reprimands for the use of “Legal Advertisement” and other phrases on brochures they give to prospective clients. After reading the opinion handed down by the Indiana Supreme Court yesterday, I’m confused about how the process of submitting your ads to the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission works.

Attorneys have to file their advertising materials with the commission before they can send them out. But no one at the commission reviews the submitted ads for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, probably because there are too many ads to keep up with.

My confusion comes from reading the opinion and finding out the two attorneys submitted one of their brochures to the commission for approval back in 1996. The commission sent a letter back saying they don’t advise attorneys on the propriety of their ads. Yet, the commission sometimes sends letters to lawyers letting them know the language of their submitted ads needs to be changed to comply with the professional rules.

These two attorneys didn’t get such a letter and then found themselves in front of the Disciplinary Commission years later.

I’m not excusing their misconduct – they had been practicing for 10 years by the time the brochures were created – but if the commission sometimes will warn attorneys about their ads, why didn’t the commission respond to the attorneys’ letter and let them know they should have used “Advertising Material” on the brochures instead?

Granted, I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of having a law practice and advertising, but I would like to think if an attorney wrote to the Disciplinary Commission and asked for approval of an advertisement, or even asked if certain language was permitted, that the commission could respond with an answer to the inquiry instead of sitting on it for eight years and then filing misconduct charges against the attorney for the advertisement. Because they sometimes inform attorneys with letters to revise the language of an ad, why not do that in the case of these attorneys?
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  • I think the rules need to provide for a safe harbor in attorney advertising materials, especially since we have to put them on file. The rules require a $50.00 filing fee so there is already a funding source to review the material. These attorneys complied with the filing requirements and even requested an opinion on their materials; what more could they do in their efforts to comply with the rule?
  • The inference is that the Commission will review something for someone they like, but can bring charges against someone they don\'t like. Sounds like favoritism to me. Whatever the policy, it should apply to all.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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