Florida Bar Board of Governors considers advertising rule amendments on use of “expert” and “specialist” and approves rule regarding faxes, telegrams and online chatrooms | Lawyer Ethics Alert Blogs
Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss the recent Florida Bar Board of Governors meeting wherein the BOG discussed rule changes to comply with a Florida federal district court judge’s Order finding that Bar rule which prevented non-certified lawyers from stating they have expertise or specialize in an area of law were unconstitutional and enjoining their enforcement. The injunction order was not appealed by The Florida Bar and there is currently a Bar moratorium on enforcing the rule. The case is Searcy et al. v. The Florida Bar et al., case number 4:13-cv-00664 (U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida). The injunction order is attached and is in the federal court’s Pacer system here: https://ecf.flnd.uscourts.gov/doc1/04914695967
According to a March 1, 2016 Florida Bar News article, the chair of the Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics told the BOG at the meeting that the committee is considering several potential amendments; however, it has not agreed on a single version of the amendment. The committee chair said that the committee expected to make a recommendation at the board’s March 10, 2016 meeting; however, it is not clear whether the topic was discussed at that meeting. The Florida Bar News article is here: http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/Articles/A1C3E4D1089C7B3785257F61004E782D
The BOG review was started after a September 30, 2015 Order by U.S. Northern District of Florida Judge Robert L. Hinkle in a lawsuit filed against The Florida Bar by the Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley, P.A. law firm. The lawsuit challenged Bar rules which permit only Florida Bar (or the equivalent) certified lawyers to hold themselves out as “experts” or “specialists” in their advertisements. The Order stated non-certified lawyers and law firms could have expertise in an area even if they were not certified and that the regulation prevented lawyers from claiming expertise in areas for which there is no available Bar certification and enjoined the Bar from enforcing the rule as applied.