The NCLA is asking the Third Circuit to take down viewpoint-based

The NCLA is asking the Third Circuit to take down viewpoint-based


Washington, D.C. Oct. 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, has filed a motion friend of the court meager in Greenberg v. Lehocky et al. The NCLA opposes an attempt by Pennsylvania officials to revive a rule that would use language too vague to regulate offensive language by legal professionals. Rule 8.4(g) of Pennsylvania exposes attorneys to disciplinary action—including sanctions that deprive attorneys of an opportunity to earn a living—if they knowingly communicate in a manner that “constitutes harassment or discrimination” while exercising the law. The rule creates a wrongful speech code for attorneys. Both the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit have repeatedly held that language restrictions that discriminate based on the content or point of view expressed are unconstitutional.

Pennsylvania has a long history of regulating both attorney conduct and speech where necessary to maintain the integrity of the justice system. Before Pennsylvania passed rule 8.4(g) of the Code of Ethics in 2020, it did not discriminate in terms of viewpoint when regulating attorneys’ speech. As the Disciplinary Committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court readily acknowledges, rule 8.4(g) imposes limitations on expression based on viewpoint: it prohibits expressions expressing disparaging views of another based on any of the eleven listed characteristics, but permits laudatory comments the same topics.

Zachary Greenberg filed a lawsuit just before Rule 8.4(g) was due to take effect in December 2020, alleging that the new rule violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it imposes content- and position-based language restrictions and is void for vagueness. On December 7, 2020, the district court provisionally ordered the enforcement of the rule. In March 2022, the District Court granted Greenberg’s motion for summary judgment and permanently ordered a revised…

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