A Judge’s Kind Words About a Lawyer Can’t Be Quoted Out of Context

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A New Jersey federal district court recently refused to strike down a state advertising rule prohibiting a lawyer from selectively quoting a judge’s laudatory comments about a lawyer. In Dwyer v. Cappell, the court ruled that such a regulation does not violate a lawyer’s First Amendment right to freedom of commercial speech. In so doing, the court held as follows:

A judicial quotation’s potential to mislead a consumer is self-evident. Without the surrounding context of a full opinion, judicial quotations relating to an attorney’s abilities could easily be misconstrued as improper judicial endorsement of an attorney, thereby threatening the integrity of the judicial system.

To avoid this problem under Louisiana Rule 7.2(c)(1), which prohibits advertisements that are false or misleading, a lawyer should not advertise using a selective quotation or excerpt from a court opinion (oral or written) about the lawyer’s legal services. A lawyer may, however, present the full text of a judicial opinion, including one that discusses the lawyer’s legal abilities.