SIXTH CIRCUIT ALLOWS FEDERAL REVIEW OF STATE BAR RULES WHICH INFRINGE ON CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS….JOHN M. BERRY JR. AND ACLU WIN BIG VICTORY FOR KENTUCKY ATTORNEYS

SIXTH CIRCUIT ALLOWS FEDERAL REVIEW OF STATE BAR RULES WHICH INFRINGE ON CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS….

NEWS FLASH: LawReader has just been advised that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the District Court ruling of Judge Reeves, and held that the Federal Courts do have a right to review unconstitutional bar rules.

This ruling was in the John M. Berry Jr. case filed by the ACLU. The full ruling will be published by LawReader as soon as possible.
The Berry suit challenged the right of the Kentucky Bar Association to sanction an attorney for making truthful statements of fact, “if the statement was true but reckless”. This ruling is a victory for the First Amendment.

The TWENTY PAGE RULING HELD THAT THE KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT RULE WHICH ALLOWS SANCTIONS AGAINST ATTORNEY FOR MAKING TRUTHFUL BUT RECKLESS STATEMENTS WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS APPLIED IN THE BERRY CASE.

This ruling will be posted here today.

PRESS RELEASE:
APPEALS COURT AGREES WITH ACLU THAT ATTORNEY’S SPEECH RIGHTS VIOLATED

Lawsuit Challenged Authority of
Kentucky Bar Association

CINCINNATI – Today the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA) violated Newcastle attorney John M. Berry, Jr.’s First Amendment free speech rights by preventing him from criticizing the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

John Berry, a Kentucky attorney and former state senator, wrote a letter in 2007 to the Legislative Ethics Commission expressing concerns over its handling and resolution of an inquiry into alleged fundraising irregularities by Senate President David Williams. A retired judge on the Ethics Commission then filed a complaint against Mr. Berry with the KBA alleging that he challenged the integrity of the Ethics Commission in violation of professional ethics rules governing attorneys’ conduct.

In March 2009, the KBA notified Mr. Berry that his letter had indeed violated an ethics rule prohibiting attorneys from making statements that they “know[] to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer[.]” According to the KBA, Mr. Berry violated this rule “by publicly implying that the Legislative Ethics Commission did not conduct its review appropriately,” but the KBA did not specify what error Mr. Berry had made.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed suit on Mr. Berry’s behalf asserting that the KBA’s authority to sanction attorneys for criticizing judicial officers in these circumstances violated the First Amendment. United States District Judge Danny Reeves dismissed the ACLU’s suit. Today’s ruling reverses that decision and finds that KBA officials did violate Mr. Berry’s First Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that “it is evident that the KBA acted unconstitutionally.”

In describing why this case implicates significant First Amendment principles, Mr. Berry stated, “The right of every citizen, including attorneys, to publicly express opinions about the performance of public agencies and officials is a constitutional right that is vital to the success of our democracy.”

Mr. Berry was represented by ACLU staff attorney William Sharp and cooperating attorneys David Tachau and Kate McKune of the Louisville law firm Tachau Meek PLC.

THE 20 PAGE SIXTH CIRCUIT DECISION CAN BE FOUND ON THE HOME PAGE OF LAWREADER IN THE LEFT HAND COLUMN UNDER THE LISTING
Berry 6th Circuit 7_27_2012

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