Tag Archives: first amendment

Should Avvo’s Legal Services Be Considered An Ethical Form Of Fee Splitting?

Avvo has argued that the fee-splitting prohibition could be a violation of the First Amendment.

A few days ago, three committees appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court jointly ruled that its lawyers cannot participate in Avvo’s Legal Services program because it engages in unethical fee splitting with non-lawyers.

Avvo’s Legal Services program works like this: A lawyer who signs up for the program will have a chance to be connected to a client seeking a 15-minute consultation. The client pays $39.95 to Avvo which is deposited to the attorney’s bank account. Soon after, in a separate transaction, Avvo debits $10 from the attorney’s bank account as an “marketing fee” for that client.

Does the above make Avvo’s Legal Services program a fee-splitting scheme? Yes. You can call it a “marketing fee” or some other name that doesn’t include the words “fee split with non-lawyers.” But it does not change the fact that a lawyer is getting paid and a non-lawyer is getting a cut of that pay. And it’s not just New Jersey that thinks this way. The state bar ethics committees of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina also ruled that this was impermissible fee splitting. I am very confident that other states will rule the same way.

Some argued that this system is no different than a credit card processing company charging a fee based on a percentage of the money received from a credit card transaction. There is a big distinction. The credit card processing company is not providing the clients. The processing company does not care whether the client is happy with the lawyer’s service. Avvo sets up a caller with an attorney. I do not know how Avvo matches up callers with attorneys, but I think it’s safe to assume that if callers are consistently unhappy with a particular attorney, that attorney will stop getting connections.

Full Article – http://abovethelaw.com/2017/06/should-avvos-legal-services-be-considered-an-ethical-form-of-fee-splitting/?rf=1

South Dakota: Bill Attempting to Silence NRA Passed by House Committee

Today, the House Judiciary Committee heard and passed House Bill 1200 by a 9-3 vote.  HB 1200 would severely limit your NRA’s ability to communicate with its membership in South Dakota.  HB 1200 now heads to the House floor where it will await full consideration.

If enacted, HB 1200 would require the NRA to disclose a list of its members if certain contributions are made to a ballot question committee or used for an independent communication expenditure.  These contributions are made so that NRA can inform its membership as well as Second Amendment supporters about legislation or other issues affecting their Second Amendment rights, and HB 1200 seeks to limit that ability.

It is critical that you contact your state Representative, and urge them to OPPOSE House Bill 1200.

HB 1200 is in conflict with the First Amendment.  It seeks to limit the free speech of organizations like the NRA unless they first disclose their members’ private information in the process.  Donors to organizations, regardless of their views on public policy matters, should be free to support causes they believe in without fear of retaliation, harassment, or intimidation by powerful government figures.  Because free speech is the right of every American, this legislation must be defeated.

Again, please click the “Take Action” button above or call (605) 773-3821 to contact your Representative, and urge them to OPPOSE House Bill 1200.

Sourced From – https://www.nraila.org/articles/20170222/south-dakota-bill-attempting-to-silence-nra-passed-by-house-committee

Gawker posting Hulk Hogan’s sex tape was wrong. But was it legal?

A $100 million lawsuit that could bankrupt the media company rests on complicated questions about “newsworthiness”


That Gawker posted a video of Hulk Hogan having sex, a video recorded and distributed without his consent, is unethical. Hogan, legal name Terry G. Bollea, says he was secretly taped, apparently by his friend, while having sex with that friend’s then-wife, at that friend’s invitation. In one light, the story can be read as humorous, because it involves Hulk Hogan and the wife of a man named “Bubba the Love Sponge.” But just think: What if Gawker had posted the nude video creepily taken of ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews? Oh wait, Deadspin, Gawker’s sister site, did link to the site that posted the video. Clearly, it’s all pretty vile.

Vileness, however, won’t stop some people on the Internet, including some who pretend they are journalists. The key question, then, is whether it was in the legal clear. We’ll find out soon enough: Hogan is currently suing Gawker in a Florida court for a potentially bankrupting $100 million.

Gawker defends posting a portion of the video—above a ruminating think piece about why proles like watching celebrities fuck—because it was newsworthy. How that can possibly be was explained by the post’s author, former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, in a videotaped deposition played in court: The only thing that could make a celebrity sex tape non-newsworthy, he snarked, would be if that celebrity was under the age of 4.

Even when the subject of such a video isn’t a celebrity, Daulerio has shown little compunction about publishing. To wit: When Gawker posted a video of a young woman’s bathroom stall sexual encounter several years ago, the woman emailed Daulerio begging that it be taken down, and suggested that she might have been raped. Daulerio responded by refusing to take it down, though the site changed its mind soon thereafter.

“I’m sure it’s embarrassing but keep your head up, these things pass,” he reportedly emailed.

If I prized schadenfreude, I might pray that someone riding so high on ethics-free hubris might one day face a karmic sally of Internet-breaking public humiliation, one laying him so low that any would-be trolls thinking about following in his footsteps would be deterred from doing so forever after.

Such a wish, however, would be unkind. More to the point, it’s way beyond my technological prowess to effectuate. So, instead, I decided to dig into the the legal questions at hand.

The lawsuit was filed in a state court, so it won’t set any larger precedent unless it is ultimately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But it nonetheless concerns a question deemed of incredible importance: Is Gawker protected by First Amendment free press rights? Or, in an age rife with Internet-based harassment and revenge porn, does Hogan’s right to privacy win out? There’s not a lot of precedent here, so courts around the country will be looking to how the Florida lawsuit plays out.

Of the four experts I contacted, only one, Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, said that Gawker’s actions might be protected by the First Amendment because of Hogan’s previous statements — that he had not had sex with that woman — and the fact that he is a celebrity.

“Change virtually any fact and the legal analysis would look very different,” emails Goldman. “If Bollea hadn’t made the false public statements, the newsworthiness of the video would decrease; and if Bollea wasn’t a high-profile celebrity, there usually would be little or no newsworthiness to the video footage.”

Three other legal scholars told me that Gawker was in the wrong, albeit for different reasons.

Amy Gajda, a law professor at Tulane and the author of “The First Amendment Bubble: How Privacy and Paparazzi Threaten a Free Press,” says that existing laws allowing people to bring suit for invasion of privacy suffice.

“There is enough space in First Amendment law to suggest that Gawker cannot do this,” says Gajda. “If private information is revealed…like nudity, sex information, medical information, then that revelation of information can be punished despite the First Amendment as long as the information is not newsworthy or not in the public interest.”

Read Full Article – http://www.salon.com/2016/03/13/gawker_posting_hulk_hogans_sex_tape_was_wrong_but_was_it_legal/

MTA’s ban anti-Muslim ads on subway is legal, court rules

An appeals court judge has upheld a previous ruling that the MTA’s policy of refusing all political and religious ads in the transit system is legal, meaning the agency can continue to reject controversial posters by firebrand Pamela Geller and the anti-Muslim American Freedom law Center– for now.

Geller’s attorney had appealed Manhattan Federal judge John Koeltl’s ruling last June, in which he said “No law requires public transit agencies to accept political advertisements as a matter of course.”

But the appeals court says that, given that the MTA had changed it policy disallowing all political ads in the midst the legal battle, Geller and the AFLC’s initial arguments are now “moot.”

“AFDI is, of course, free to challenge the MTA’s new advertising standards, but it must do so through an amended complaint,” the ruling reads.

The case began in 2014, when Geller’s AFDI filed suit against the MTA for blocking it from purchasing Islam-bashing ads on city buses.

MTA officials said they are happy that the court took the agency’s side.

“The MTA is pleased by the Second Circuit’s decision, which reiterated that we have acted in good faith when balancing enforcement of our advertising regulations with respect for the First Amendment,” said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.

Sourced From – http://nypost.com/2016/03/03/mtas-ban-anti-muslim-ads-on-subway-is-legal-court-rules/