Richmond, Va.-based criminal defense attorney Horace Hunter, who blogs about cases he’s worked on (and national and local criminal justice issues) at Richmond Criminal Defense News, has been charged with misconduct by the Virginia State Bar.
The charge comes amid concerns by bar authorities that Hunter’s blog on his firm’s website is actually an advertisement, rather than an informative news and commentary website as Hunter claims, a move that could make other lawyer-bloggers wary, reports the Washington Post‘s Capital Business blog.
“Hunter’s case has some lawyers—for whom blogging has become commonplace—as well as free speech and social media law experts questioning whether the bar is overreaching in its regulation of online speech in the social media age,” wrote the Post’s Catherine Ho.
Bans on attorney advertising, and commercial speech limitations in general, make me cringe.
Alas, I am a member of this cartel.
Some more information from this post on Hunter’s (now suspect) blog:
At issue in the case is whether a disclaimer is required on “This Week in Richmond Criminal Defense,” a blog written by Hunter and published as part of the News section of the Hunter & Lipton PC law firm website (www.hunterlipton.com).
In July 2010, the Virginia State Bar requested that Hunter post the disclaimer required for lawyer advertisements on his blog. Hunter responded by asserting that the blog was not an advertisement, but news and commentary and, as such, no disclaimer was required. He further asserted that the blog is protected by the First Amendment.
The two sides failed to reach an agreement and the Bar instituted formal charges against Hunter alleging, among other things, that his blog did not meet the requirements of the Rules of Professional conduct with respect to lawyer advertising.