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Lawyer advertising spurs State Bar survey plan

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Hoosiers will soon be asked whether "ambulance chasing" attorneys should have to wait 30 days after an accident or injury before directly contacting potential clients by mail.

The Indiana State Bar Association plans to find out what residents think about a month-long cooling-off period where lawyers wouldn't be able to advertise their services by direct mail.

At its annual meeting, the bar association's Board of Governors gave approval Oct. 1 for a survey of Indiana residents about a proposed lawyer advertising rule that was submitted to the Indiana Supreme Court two years ago.

That measure includes changes to Section 7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding advertising. Specifically, Rule 7.3(b)(3) wouldn't allow an attorney to advertise directly to a person or their family within a month of any accident or disaster for a personal injury or wrongful death action.

"There is potential for abuse inherent in direct solicitation by a lawyer of prospective clients known to need legal services," the proposed rule commentary says, noting how the public can be overwhelmed after an accident and not able to make a reasoned decision. "The situation is therefore fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and overreaching. This potential for abuse ... justifies the 30-day restriction, particularly since lawyer advertising permitted under these rules offers an alternative means of communicating necessary information to those who may be in need of legal services."

The Rules Committee is still reviewing and considering the request, according to Indiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan.

But before a final decision is considered, the ISBA wants the court committee and justices who'd review the issue to have more empirical data from the audience receiving attorney advertising, according to ISBA immediate past-president Doug Church, who watched this issue grow during his term. The survey is intended to follow a 1995 ruling from the United States Supreme Court that determined specific guidelines for adopting these types of rules.

In Florida Bar v. Went for It Inc., 515 U.S. 618 (1995), the court upheld the state's restriction on lawyer advertising under the First Amendment's commercial speech doctrine - the first time justices had done so since the landmark Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), that lifted the traditional ban on lawyer advertising. Florida had adopted a rule in 1990 prohibiting attorneys from sending solicitation letters to injury victims or their relatives until after 30 days had elapsed. One attorney who'd regularly done so challenged the rule on grounds it violated his constitutional free-speech rights.

The court held that Florida's regulation was permissible and states could adopt those rules as long as the particular jurisdiction satisfied a three-prong test: that the government asserts a substantial interest in supporting the regulation; that it can demonstrate the restriction directly and materially advances the interest; and that the regulation is "narrowly drawn." Justices held the protection of potential client's privacy is a substantial interest; that a two-year study conducted on the effects of direct target mailings demonstrated the harms were real and this regulation would alleviate them to a degree; and that a 30-day cooling-off period was acceptably brief and didn't stop people from finding an attorney if they needed one.

Church said the ISBA committee studied several cases but focused on the one from Florida because it provides definitive guidelines.

Specifics haven't been outlined on how the study will be conducted, but it's expected to cost about $25,000 and a firm will likely be hired to survey residents in some fashion, he said. •

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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