f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 5, 2005

pit-bully pulpit

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 6:22 pm

The legal Guard Dogs of Dignity are straining at their leashes again down in Florida.  You can read the next

chapter in their attack on the Pit Bill logo of Fort Lauderdale lawyers Pape & Chandler, in the Florida State Bar’s 

Initial Brief to the Florida Supreme Court (Case Nos: SC04-40/SC04-41).


There’s plenty of background on the case in our prior posts, such as here and here.  The referee’s 

decision in Florida Bar v. John Pape and Marc Chandler, along with the original Bar complaint,

and P&C’s comprehensive Memorandum of Law , can be found here.   The Referee and ruled that

neither the 1 (800) PITBULL number, nor P&C’s logo are deceptive or otherwise violative of the Rules

Regulating the Florida Bar; he also held that the State’s lawyer advertising rules are unconstitutional

restrictions on commercial speech as applied here by The Florida Bar.

Before you read the highlights of FBA’s case, please note that this is a b&w version of the logo in question:

 

 

pitBullLogo

 

 

As we discuss here, FBA is represented by famed appellate Tallahassee lawyer Barry Richard.  But all of

Richard’s talents could not turn this sow’s ear (horse’s rear?) of a case into a winner.

 

Here are excerpts from their brief that make the main points argued by Richard and FBA:

 


tiny check The use in a lawyer’s advertisement of a picture of a spiked-collar pit bull and the telephone

 number 800-PIT-BULL provides the consumer with nothing of informational value and is

designed to convey the idea that the lawyer engages in tactics that are considered unprofessional

and that are prohibited in practice. Because such tactics are prohibited, the suggestion that the

lawyer can engage in them is inherently misleading in violation of Rule 4-7.2(b)(4). Moreover, the

use of reference to a pit bull is intended to describe or characterize the lawyer’s services in violation

Rule 4-7.2(b)(3).

 

tiny check  The referee’s distinction between the characteristics of a lawyer and of a lawyer’s legal services for advertising purposes makes no sense and serves no purpose. For purposes of advertising for legal business, a lawyer’s personal traits and the traits attributable to his or her legal services are indistinguishable.

 

“tinyredcheck”  There is no constitutional prohibition on regulating commercial speech that is more likely to deceive the public than inform it. The possibility of deception in using pit bulls in lawyer advertising is selfevident.

(emphasis added)

 

tiny check  The purpose for which statements are used in lawyer advertising is key.  Here, it would be one thing if the pit bull references were being used to communicate that Respondents represent victims of dog bites or matters involving pit bulls. Such a statement would be an objective, verifiable fact and would provide the same type of useful information as did the Dalkon Shield picture in Zauderer. But the Respondents do not claim to practice dog bite or pit bull law and are not trying to convey such information.  What they are patently attempting to convey is a suggestion that they possess and use in their practice certain traits that are subjective and unverifiable by any objective test.Case law is abundant regarding the vicious nature of pit bulls.

 

tiny check Surveys or equivalent evidence is not required for the possibility of deception involving an aspect of our culture that is so commonplace and self-evident. 

 

tiny check  Descriptions or depictions of lawyers or their legal services as embodying the traits of pit bulls do not comport with the professional standards to which lawyers are currently held in Florida. It is the Bar’s position that Respondents’ television advertisements do nothing but threaten such professional standards and erode the confidence of the public in the legal system.

 

Take another look at that logo and tell me what is “self-evident” about the intent of the advertising lawyers or the effects of the image on the public.  I’m not convinced that the pit bull logo injures consumers in any way.  Wasting scarce bar counsel resources on this matter — and the appeal — on the other hand, surely means that more important disciplinary matters are being shortchanged.

 

update (Feb. 22, 2005): You can find Pape & Chandler’s Answer Brief here.  

 

  

 

not much afternoon left–

his dog runs loose

ahead of him

 








dog black

 

letting

the dog out–

the stars in

 

 

 





distant thunder–

the dog’s toenails click

against the linoleum

 


(Canon Press, 1999)

 


 









the first snowfall
doesn’t hide it…
dog poop





 

mother dog
blocks with her butt…
snowball

 



 


click here for 32 winter haiku by Issa featuring dogs 

 

 

by dagosan:  



sunset tints

the cloudbank pink —

avoiding yellow snow

                                                  [Feb.5, 2005]

 



 Speaking of lawyer ethics. take a peek at this article from February’s Washington


Lawyer, which “reviews the most popular of [website] disclaimers and discusses


the ways in which they may be featured on a law firm’s web site for maximum effect.”


(Thwarting Ethical Violations With Web Site Disclaimers, by Walter A. Effross )


My favorite passage:




These disclaimers can be taken to unusual and somewhat amusing lengths.


For instance, the terms-and-conditions page of one firm, whose site provides


a panoply of pages on its practice groups, lawyers, and publications, nonetheless


insists that the site is intended only to provide “general information to law students


and others who are considering a career at [the firm] or are interested in the firm.”


Similarly, another firm claims that “[t]his website is primarily intended for use by


law school students considering a career at our firm.”


 

4 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    Thanks for your continuing coverage of the Pit Bull story. Perhaps the Florida Bar wouldn’t have a problem with a different kind of dog in the ad? Perhaps one similar to the dog-logo displayed by biglaw firm Bingham, McCutcheon here – http://www.bingham.com/Bingham/default.asp (though I don’t think the firm has Florida offices). “Hairiest Deals, Turned Best in Show” is Bingham’s motto. I guess before we know it, the bars will be hiring breeding experts to scrutinze the particular type of animal and its propensities every time they’re use in an ad. What a waste of resources.

    Carolyn

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — February 6, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Hi David,
    Thanks for your continuing coverage of the Pit Bull story. Perhaps the Florida Bar wouldn’t have a problem with a different kind of dog in the ad? Perhaps one similar to the dog-logo displayed by biglaw firm Bingham, McCutcheon here – http://www.bingham.com/Bingham/default.asp (though I don’t think the firm has Florida offices). “Hairiest Deals, Turned Best in Show” is Bingham’s motto. I guess before we know it, the bars will be hiring breeding experts to scrutinze the particular type of animal and its propensities every time they’re use in an ad. What a waste of resources.

    Carolyn

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — February 6, 2005 @ 9:25 pm

  3. Hi, Carolyn. Great link. Thanks. I hadn’t seen the Bingham mascot before — it’s sure not the breed or image I would have chosen to represent excellence, intelligence, drive, etc. I can’t wait till your big, fluffy puppy is on your masthead.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 6, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

  4. Hi, Carolyn. Great link. Thanks. I hadn’t seen the Bingham mascot before — it’s sure not the breed or image I would have chosen to represent excellence, intelligence, drive, etc. I can’t wait till your big, fluffy puppy is on your masthead.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 6, 2005 @ 10:48 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress