Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc.
Annotate this Case
515 U.S. 618 (1995)
OCTOBER TERM, 1994
FLORIDA BAR v. WENT FOR IT, INC., ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 94-226. Argued January 11, 1995-Decided June 21, 1995
Respondent lawyer referral service and an individual Florida attorney filed this action for declaratory and injunctive relief challenging, as violative of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, Florida Bar (Bar) Rules prohibiting personal injury lawyers from sending targeted direct-mail solicitations to victims and their relatives for 30 days following an accident or disaster. The District Court entered summary judgment for the plaintiffs, relying on Bates v. State Bar of Ariz., 433 U. S. 350, and subsequent cases. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed on similar grounds.
Held: In the circumstances presented here, the Bar Rules do not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 622-635.
(a) Bates and its progeny establish that lawyer advertising is commercial speech and, as such, is accorded only a limited measure of First Amendment protection. Under the "intermediate" scrutiny framework set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Servo Comm'n of N. Y., 447 U. S. 557, a restriction on commercial speech that, like the advertising at issue, does not concern unlawful activity and is not misleading is permissible if the government: (1) asserts a substantial interest in support of its regulation; (2) establishes that the restriction directly and materially advances that interest; and (3) demonstrates that the regulation is "'narrowly drawn,'" id., at 564-565. Pp. 622-624.
(b) The Bar's 30-day ban on targeted direct-mail solicitation withstands Central Hudson scrutiny. First, the Bar has substantial interest both in protecting the privacy and tranquility of personal injury victims and their loved ones against invasive, unsolicited contact by lawyers and in preventing the erosion of confidence in the profession that such repeated invasions have engendered. Second, the fact that the harms targeted by the ban are quite real is demonstrated by a Bar study, effectively unrebutted by respondents below, that contains extensive statistical and anecdotal data suggesting that the Florida public views direct-mail solicitations in the immediate wake of accidents as an intrusion on privacy that reflects poorly upon the profession. Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U. S. 761, 771-772; Shapero v. Kentucky Bar Assn., 486 U. S. 466, 475-476; and Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U. S. 60, 72, distinguished. Third, the ban's scope is reasonably well
tailored to its stated objectives. Moreover, its duration is limited to a brief 30-day period, and there are many other ways for injured Floridians to learn about the availability of legal representation during that time. Pp. 624-634.
21 F.3d 1038, reversed.
O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and SCALIA, THOMAS, and BREYER, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined, post, p. 635.
Barry Scott Richard argued the cause for petitioner.
With him on the briefs were William F. Blews and John A. De Vault III.
Bruce S. Rogow argued the cause for respondents. With him on the briefs were Beverly A. Pohl and Howell L. Ferguson. *
*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Dade County Trial Lawyers Association et al. by Robert D. Peltz and Robert G. Vial; for the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers by C. Rufus Pennington III; and for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America by Jeffrey Robert White and Larry S. Stewart.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Institute for Injury Reduction by Larry E. Coben; for the Media Institute et al. by John J. Walsh, Steven G. Brody, Mary Elizabeth Taylor, P. Cameron De Vore, and David M. Hunsaker; and for Public Citizen by David C. Vladeck.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Alabama State Bar Association et al. by James L. Branton, Broox G. Holmes, Robert L. Jones III, Miriam Cyrulnik, Frances A. Koncilja, Francisco R. Angones, R. Franklin Balotti, Floyd Shapiro, Harold Turner Daniel, Jr., David A. Decker, Nicholas V. Critelli, Jr., Hedo Zacherle, Henry M. Coxe III, Stephen D. Wolnitzek, Marcia L. Proctor, W Scott Welch III, Michael B. Martz, Robert J. Phillips, Grace D. Moran, Benedict J. Pollio, William B. McGuire, Albert L. Bell, J. Rutledge Young, Jr., John H. Gross, Harris A. Gilbert, and Steven Trost; for the New York State Bar Association by G. Robert Witmer, Jr.; for Hyatt Legal Services by Andrew Kohn; and for the Institute for Access to Legal Services et al. by Bruce J. Ennis, Jr., Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., and Nory Miller.