First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
Fla. justices won't let lawyer ads go to the dogs

By The Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court muzzled a pair of "pit bull" lawyers yesterday.

The seven justices unanimously decided a television commercial featuring the image of a pit bull wearing a spiked collar and telephone number ending in PIT-BULL demeans the legal profession and misleads the public.

They reprimanded Fort Lauderdale lawyers John Pape and Marc Chandler and ordered them to attend a Florida Bar workshop on advertising.

Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in Florida Bar v. Pape that the high court cannot condone an ad implying lawyers will "get results through combative and vicious tactics that will maim, scar or harm the opposing party."

She wrote that pit bulls are known for their savage behavior, cited several reports of people being killed by the animals and noted that some local governments have passed laws banning the breed.

Chandler said he and his partner were withholding comment until they had a chance to review the opinion.

A bar referee earlier had found that the ad did not violate rules of professional conduct on grounds that the pit bull logo and telephone number describe the lawyers' personal characteristics rather than the quality of their service. The Florida Supreme Court disagreed and rejected the referee's recommendation to clear the lawyers.

"Were we to approve the referee's finding, images of sharks, wolves, crocodiles and piranhas could follow," Pariente wrote.

The high court, again disagreeing with the referee, also found the commercial was not protected free speech under the First Amendment. Pariente cited U.S. Supreme Court rulings that allow states to prohibit lawyer advertising that is not factual or contains information that cannot be verified.

"The 'pit bull' commercial produced by the attorneys in this case contains no indication that they specialize in either dog bite cases generally or in litigation arising from attacks by pit bulls specifically," Pariente wrote.

"Instead, the image and words 'pit bull' are intended to convey an image about the nature of the lawyers' litigation tactics."

Justices won't let Fla. lawyers unleash 'pit-bull' ads
Fort Lauderdale attorney notes U.S. Supreme Court takes few appeals, says decision doesn't mean lower court's ruling is correct. 03.28.06

Florida judge won't muzzle law firm's 'pit bull' ads
State Bar had argued 1-800-PITBULL commercials violate laws regulating legal advertising, but court says company's ads are constitutionally protected speech. 10.08.04


Lawyer prevails in dispute with Florida Bar over Yellow Page ad

By David L. Hudson Jr. Orlando attorney Steven Mason says he feels 'vindicated' by federal appeals panel's ruling. 04.14.00

Bush, federal government lead pack of '06 'Muzzle' winners
By David L. Hudson Jr. Thomas Jefferson Center's 15th annual awards 'censure the censors' — highlighting actions inimical to free expression 04.11.06

Attorney ads

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print

Last system update: Friday, July 25, 2008 | 04:56:14
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links