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No First Amendment Protection for Lawyer’s Rants


— October 10, 2003

Rants? What rants?

An attorney’s poison-pen letter to former West Hartford Probate Judge John A. Berman is not protected free speech, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled late last month, upholding a reprimand lodged against Joseph Notopoulos.

The West Hartford, Conn., lawyer had argued that he wrote and sent the letter in his capacity as a private citizen, not a member of the bar, and therefore shouldn’t be disciplined under ethics rules prohibiting attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or making statements intended to disrupt a tribunal. . . .

[The court] also disagreed with Notopoulos’ claim that his criticisms — which included his contention that Berman had “prostituted the integrity of his office” — were absolutely protected under the First Amendment. “In the context of disciplinary proceedings, an attorney’s right to free speech must be balanced with the state’s interest in preserving the integrity of the judicial system,” [Judge William P.] Murray wrote. ” … Here, the significant state interest in preserving public confidence in the judicial system outweighs the free speech rights of Notopoulos to make reckless accusations about the integrity of a probate judge.”

In an interview, Notopoulos said the decision amounts to unlawful censorship, and ignores controlling federal case law.

Details here from Law.com.


Rants? What rants?

An attorney’s poison-pen letter to former West Hartford Probate Judge John A. Berman is not protected free speech, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled late last month, upholding a reprimand lodged against Joseph Notopoulos.

The West Hartford, Conn., lawyer had argued that he wrote and sent the letter in his capacity as a private citizen, not a member of the bar, and therefore shouldn’t be disciplined under ethics rules prohibiting attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or making statements intended to disrupt a tribunal. . . .

[The court] also disagreed with Notopoulos’ claim that his criticisms — which included his contention that Berman had “prostituted the integrity of his office” — were absolutely protected under the First Amendment. “In the context of disciplinary proceedings, an attorney’s right to free speech must be balanced with the state’s interest in preserving the integrity of the judicial system,” [Judge William P.] Murray wrote. ” … Here, the significant state interest in preserving public confidence in the judicial system outweighs the free speech rights of Notopoulos to make reckless accusations about the integrity of a probate judge.”

In an interview, Notopoulos said the decision amounts to unlawful censorship, and ignores controlling federal case law.

Details here from Law.com.

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