Florida Bar v. Went For It Inc.

PETITIONER: Florida Bar
RESPONDENT: Went For It Inc.
LOCATION: Arkansas General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 94-226
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 515 US 618 (1995)
ARGUED: Jan 11, 1995
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1995

ADVOCATES:
Bruce S. Rogow - Argued the cause for the respondents
Barry Scott Richard - Argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Went For It, Inc., (a lawyer referral service) and John T. Blakely (a Florida attorney) were sending targeted direct-mail solicitations to victims and their relatives who had been injured in an accident. According to Florida Bar rules, such direct and targeted mailings are prohibited for thirty days following an accident or disaster.

Question

Do the Florida Bar rules prohibiting direct mail solicitation of accident victims violate the free speech of personal injury attorneys?

Media for Florida Bar v. Went For It Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1995 in Florida Bar v. Went For It Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 1995 in Florida Bar v. Went For It Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in number 94-226 Florida Bar v. Went For It Inc. will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case comes here on writ of Certiorari to The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The respondents challenge rules of the Florida Bar Association that prohibit lawyers from sending targeted direct mail solicitation letters to accident victims and their relatives.

For 30 days following an accident or a disaster and fighting several of this court’s precedence the District Court held that the state bars 30 day ban was unconstitutional.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse.

Under the Central Hudson Standard that we have devised for the commercial speech context, a restriction on commercial speech that does not concern unlawful activity and is not misleading, is permissible if the government asserts a substantial interest in support of its regulation establishes that the restriction directly and materially advances that interest and demonstrates that the regulation is narrowly drawn.

We believe that the Florida Bar’s short ban on targeted mailings to accident victims withstands this scrutiny under the Central Hudson Gas.

First, the Bar has substantial interests in promoting professionalism and preventing lawyers from engaging an invasive conduct during periods of grief, bereavement or injury.

Second, statistical and anecdotal data compiled by the Florida Bar suggested the Florida public to use direct mail solicitations in the immediate wake of accidents as an intrusion on privacy that reflects clearly on the legal profession.

Third, the ban scope is reasonably well tailored to its objectives.

We find it significant that the ban is limited to a 30 day period and that there are many other ways for like injured victims to learn about the availability of legal representation during that time for example, by way of Yellow Pages and other advertising and billboards and the like.

Justice Kennedy has filed a dissenting opinion which is joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg.