Hello welcome to this edition of the JACPA Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent (January 27, 2012) vote of The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors (BOG) to pursue revisions to change the Bar Rule amendments pending before the Supreme Court of Florida to prohibit the use of actors to portray “authority figures” such as judges and police officers in lawyer advertisements.
The Board’s Review Committee on Professional Ethics voted to pursue the changes to the proposed Rules 4-7.3 and 4-7.5 and the BOG agreed with this recommendation. The BOG also waived second reading to allow the changes to be immediately be filed with the Florida Supreme Court and considered at the oral argument scheduled for March 7, 2012.
As I previously advised, the BOG recently considered an advertising appeal where a law firm wanted to use an actor portraying a judge to act as a spokesperson and endorse the law firm’s services. The BOG voted to take no action on that appeal and advised the law firm that it would not be prosecuted for running the advertisement; however, the firm would have to stop using the advertisement if it is prohibited in the rule amendments that are pending before the Court.
The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Advertising also voted in December 2011 to recommend that lawyers no longer be allowed to use actors portraying police and other authority figures in advertisements. The Bar and the Advertising Committee had allowed the use of actors portraying police officers since 2006.
If approved, Bar Rule 4-7.5 would be changed to state that an advertisement would be considered “unduly manipulative or intrusive” (and therefore prohibited) if it “uses an authority figure such as a judge or law enforcement officer, or an actor portraying an authority figure, to endorse or recommend the lawyer or act as a spokesperson for the lawyer.”
Bottom line: If the Bar advertising rule amendments are ultimately approved and implemented by the Florida Supreme Court, lawyers will no longer be allowed to use “authority figures” in advertisements.
Be careful out there…
As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
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