In re R. M. J.

LOCATION: Turner Turnpike

DOCKET NO.: 80-1431
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Missouri

CITATION: 455 US 191 (1982)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1981
DECIDED: Jan 25, 1982

Charles B. Blackmar - on behalf of the Appellant
John W. Inglish - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case


Media for In re R. M. J.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1981 in In re R. M. J.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 25, 1982 in In re R. M. J.

Warren E. Burger:

The opinion for the Court in Number 80-1431 will be delivered by Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case here on appeal from the Supreme Court of Missouri involves the validity of rules governing the advertisement by lawyers.

State supreme courts, aided by the organized bar, adopt rules or Canons of Professional conduct that now include regulation of advertising.

The Missouri rule had issue in this case specifies 10 categories of information that may be included in an advertisement.

It limits the language that a lawyer may use in identifying the areas of his practice.

And among other provisions, it allows the mailing of professional announcement cards only to lawyers, clients, former clients, personal friends and relatives.

There also is a restriction against identifying oneself as a member of the Bar of this Court or of the Bar of another state.

The Missouri Disciplinary Committee charged their lawyer with violation by the advertising that he published in telephone directory and by virtue of cost it was sent out by this lawyer.

The Missouri Supreme Court agreed that there were violations of the rules and held however that the rules were perfectly valid.

It issued a private reprimand for the violations.

In Bates against Arizona, we held that advertising by lawyers is a form of commercial speech protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

We made clear however, that misleading advertisement is not protected.

Moreover, we reiterate today that the potential for deception and confusion is particularly strong in the context of advertising for professional services.

In this case, although the advertising violated the Missouri rules, there was no finding that it was inherently misleading or that the public had in fact been mislead.

We conclude therefore that the Missouri rules, as applied in this case, cannot be squared with the Court’s decision in Bates against Arizona.

Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Justice Powell.