RESPONDENT: Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, Bd. of Accountancy
LOCATION: Law Office of Silvia Safille Ibanez
DOCKET NO.: 93-639
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court
CITATION: 512 US 136 (1994)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1994
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1994
Lisa S. Nelson - for the respondent
Silvia S. Ibanez - for herself as pro se
Facts of the case
Silvia Safille Ibanez practiced law in White Haven, Florida, and had been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983. She was also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed by the Florida Board of Accountancy (Board) and was authorized by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards—a private organization—to use the designation Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Ibanez used both of these titles in her advertising and on her law office's stationery. When the Board learned that Ibanez advertised these designations, she was charged with practicing public accounting at an unlicensed firm, which violated the Public Accountancy Act. The officer who heard the case recommended that the Board dismiss the charges due to a lack of proof. The Board refused and declared Ibanez guilty of "false, deceptive, and misleading" advertising. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, First Circuit, affirmed.
Does the Board's decision to censure Ibanez use of her CPA and CFP designations violate the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment?
Media for Ibanez v. Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, Bd. of AccountancyAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1994 in Ibanez v. Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, Bd. of Accountancy
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 1994 in Ibanez v. Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, Bd. of Accountancy
William H. Rehnquist:
The opinion of the Court in No. 93-639, Ibanez against Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation will be announced by Justice Ginsburg.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
Silvia Ibanez is a lawyer practicing in Winter Haven, Florida.
She is also a certified public accountant and a certified financial planner.
She included the designations CPA and CFP along side her JD designation on her business cards and law office stationary and in her yellow pages listing.
For these communications, the Florida Board of Accountancy disciplined her declaring her use of the CPA and CFP designations falls deceptive and misleading.
The Florida District Court of Appeals upheld the Board's action.
We granted certiorari and today, hold that the Board's order censuring Ibanez is incompatible with First Amendment restraints on official action.
Ibanez truthfully represented that she is both a CPA and a CFP.
Truthful commercial speech is subject to restriction only when necessary to advance a substantial state interest.
The information Ibanez communicates is verifiable by the public she seeks to serve and the Board has not demonstrated that consumers could be mislead by her use of the CPA and CFP designations.
Because the Board has not overcome the presumption rooted in the First Amendment favoring disclosure of truthful relevant information over suppression, we reverse the Florida Court's judgment.
Justice O'Connor has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part joined by the Chief Justice.