IN RE R.M.J., 455 U. S. 191 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

In re R.M.J., 455 U.S. 191 (1982)

In re R.M.J.

No 80-1431

Argued November 9, 1981

Decided January 25, 1982

455 U.S. 191


Rule 4 of the Missouri Supreme Court, regulating advertising by lawyers, states that a lawyer may include 10 categories of information in a published advertisement: name, address and telephone number; areas of practice; date and place of birth; schools attended; foreign language ability; office hours; fee for an initial consultation; availability of a schedule of fees; credit arrangements; and the fixed fee to be charged for certain "routine" legal services. Although the Rule does not state explicitly that these 10 categories of information are the only information that will be permitted, that is the interpretation given the Rule by the State Supreme Court and appellee Advisory Committee, which is charged with its enforcement. An addendum to the Rule specifies two ways in which areas of practice may be listed in an advertisement, under one of which the lawyer may use one or more of a list of 23 areas of practice, but may not deviate from the precise wording stated in the Rule to describe these areas. In addition, the Rule permits a lawyer to send professional announcement cards announcing a change of address or firm name, or similar matters, but only to "lawyers, clients, former clients, personal friends, and relatives." An information was filed in the Missouri Supreme Court by appellee Advisory Committee, charging appellant, a practicing lawyer in St. Louis, Mo., with violations of Rule 4. The information charged that appellant published advertisements which listed areas of practice in language other than that specified in the Rule and which listed the courts in which appellant was admitted to practice although this information was not included among the 10 categories of information authorized by the Rule. In addition, the information charged that appellant had mailed announcement cards to persons other than those permitted by the Rule. Appellant claimed that each of the restrictions upon advertising was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Rule 4 and issued a private reprimand.

Held: None of the restrictions in question upon appellant's First Amendment rights can be sustained in the circumstances of this case. Pp. 455 U. S. 199-207.

(a) Although the States retain the ability to regulate commercial speech, such as lawyer advertising that is inherently misleading or that has proved to be misleading in practice, the First and Fourteenth

Page 455 U. S. 192

Amendments require that they do so with care and in a manner no more extensive than reasonably necessary to further substantial interests. Pp. 455 U. S. 199-204.

(b) Because the listing published by appellant -- e.g., "real estate" instead of "property law" as specified by Rule 4, and "contracts" and "securities," which were not included in the Rule's listing -- has not been shown to be misleading, and appellee suggests no substantial interest promoted by the restriction, the portion of Rule 4 specifying the areas of practice that may be listed is an invalid restriction upon speech as applied to appellant's advertisements. P. 455 U. S. 205.

(c) Nor has appellee identified any substantial interest in prohibiting a lawyer from identifying the jurisdictions in which he is licensed to practice. Such information is not misleading on its face. That appellant was licensed to practice in both Illinois and Missouri is factual and highly relevant information, particularly in light of the geography of the region in which he practices. While listing the relatively uninformative fact that he is a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar could be misleading, there was no finding to this effect by the Missouri Supreme Court, there is nothing in the record to indicate it was misleading, and the Rule does not specifically identify it as potentially misleading. Pp. 455 U. S. 205-206.

(d) With respect to the restriction on announcement cards, while mailings may be more difficult to supervise, there is no indication in the record that an inability to supervise is the reason the State restricts the potential audience of the cards. Nor is it clear that an absolute prohibition is the only solution, and there is no indication of a failed effort to proceed along a less restrictive path. P. 455 U. S. 206.

609 S.W.2d 411, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 455 U. S. 193

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