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The number of attorney ads that exceed the boundaries of good taste disturbs Connecticut Chief Justice William J. Sullivan — and he plans to do something about it. At the Connecticut Bar Association’s annual meeting last week he told attendees that he would form a committee to determine if lawyer-advertising regulations should be revamped or merely better enforced. Speaking to an audience of 200, Sullivan said he despises television ads promoting lawyers as being “very aggressive.” He is particularly annoyed by the one showing bags of money being dropped off by an armored truck, in a presumed showing of the attorney’s courtroom prowess. “I’ve never known a good, competent lawyer who wasn’t aggressive,” he said in a scolding voice, before adding that “economic self-interest” can’t come before the need to uphold the public’s right to be “free from advertising that amounts to misrepresentation.” “Frankly,’ he added, “the number of ads that exceed the boundaries of appropriate content is over the top, in my opinion.” Hartford, Conn., attorney John Haymond, whose firm, Haymond, Napoli & Diamond, runs the advertisement singled out by Sullivan, did not return telephone calls last week. But in a November 2002 article from The Associated Press, he shrugged off his critics. “Anyone who considers [lawyer advertisements] an issue should get their head out of the sand,” he told the AP. Michael A. Stratton, of Stratton Faxon in New Haven, Conn., studied the issue as part of a CBA task force in 1997. He said he believes Sullivan has the right idea and should push for truth in legal advertising. “The position I take is, if you are going to advertise, you should list if you are certified,” he said. Stratton, who is certified as a national trial advocate, targeted Haymond and Carter Mario, a Milford, Conn.-based personal injury lawyer, in particular. “If you required Haymond and Mario to list their expertise, they would never advertise. They’re not certified trial lawyers. If they had to indicate their limited experience, you would never see their crass advertisements,” he said. “The average trial lawyer is trying to preserve the jury system. People like Carter Mario and Haymond do as much a disservice to the jury system as the insurance companies. There is no reason to be so distasteful and in your face.” Mario welcomes the scrutiny. “If Chief Justice Sullivan is aiming to ensure that advertising complies with ethical proscriptions, I’m all for it.” He said he’s affiliated in an alliance with 50 firms across the country that discusses marketing and advertising. “Some states have strict guidelines and some have none,” he said. “Connecticut is closer to the no guidelines of all the other states. That has been a concern of mine.” He defends his advertising. “Our ads are informational,” he said, before criticizing Haymond’s advertising. “I don’t have armored cars with money falling out of them — nothing that could be considered outrageous or inflammatory or misleading. My ads say, ‘Get Carter.’ They don’t say anything else. Connecticut would be well served to have a little bit more uniformity and scrutiny about what the content contains. If Chief Justice Sullivan is saying we need to look at what the lawyer advertising community is doing as a whole, he’s on the right track,” Mario said. “It needs some oversight.” “Under U.S. Supreme Court and Connecticut case law, lawyer advertising is commercial speech which enjoys a limited measure of First Amendment protection,” Sullivan said in his speech. “While appropriate lawyer advertising serves a legitimate goal in providing the public with helpful information � there is a need to balance that goal with the legitimate interest of protecting the public from misleading information that creates unjustified expectations.” The chief justice’s proposal targets Rule 7.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically subsection (2) which says communication is false or misleading if it is “likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve.” The task force will look at problems with lawyer advertising “and determine whether our rules need to be revamped or better enforced, so that our noble profession is not demeaned by those lawyers whose judgment on this issue is inconsistent with upholding desirable standards of professionalism for the sake of the public interest,” Sullivan said. “The legal profession and our courts have a legitimate interest in upholding the public’s confidence and respect for our system of justice.” Sullivan hinted at forming review committees for lawyer advertising. He said, “I believe that some states have procedures requiring all lawyer advertising to be submitted to an arm of the state bar association for review prior to the dissemination of the ad. In Mississippi, for example, in cases where the proposed advertisement does not pass muster, dissemination may result in professional discipline,” he said. Quinnipiac University School of Law professor Martin B. Margulies said prior review, while admirably motivated, might not be effective. “The range of what they can actually excise is very narrow. [A review panel] can only excise something that is false, misleading or so manifestly undignified as to be completely out of bounds. Any attempt to define the latter could be subject to First Amendment vagueness attacks.” Margulies said lawyer advertising really comes down to separate issues: the constitutional protection and “a matter of personal decency and professional pride.” He said lawyer advertising is “a very useful mechanism for allowing new lawyers to break into a field. New kids � are the ones who need to advertise and of course they will sometimes push envelopes. In any regime that tries for maximum freedom you’re going to get some people who test limits. That’s a necessary risk of protecting speech. I prefer that to the risk of overregulation.”

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