Victory For Louisiana Firm That Challenged Online Ad Restrictions
Louisiana firm the Wolfe Law Group won a victory in federal court this week in its challenge to Louisiana's new regulations on online advertising
Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana granted in part Wolfe's summary-judgment motion, agreeing that the state's efforts to pre-screen ads that attorneys intended to post online ran afoul of the First Amendment.
The Louisiana Supreme Court had revised its attorney-advertising rules at the direction of the state legislature in an apparent effort to "clean up" lawyer advertising in Louisiana and make it more consumer-friendly. Part of this cleanup involved changing the rules for online ads. A firm that wanted to run an ad online would be required to submit the proposed ad to a committee of the Louisiana State Bar Association for review to ensure its compliance with advertising rules, at a fee of $175 per ad.
The plaintiffs pointed out that online ads are frequently narrowly
targeted, and therefore are run in multiple variations, each of which
would require the $175 fee. This, they argued, was an unconstitutional
restriction on free speech. They further argued that even some "free"
forms of lawyer marketing could be affected by new rules. A blog post
on a firm website, for example, could be considered an advertisement
that had to be reviewed before posting, again with the fee imposed for
Some of Louisiana's new rules restricting lawyer advertising were
upheld by the opinion. But the online-ad rules, according to Judge
Feldman, did not reflect any sort of careful consideration or tailoring
by the state in attempting to regulate the commercial speech of
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