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Cerame v. Bowler

Connecticut has adopted an amendment to its Rules of Professional conduct for Connecticut-licensed lawyers that includes unconstitutional and impermissibly vague language governing speech by lawyers. The provision, Rule 8.4(7), applies broadly, permitting sanctions even against those who have not knowingly violated the Rule, and supplies only vague definitions of actionable speech based on any one of 15 categories, including race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Representing two Connecticut-licensed attorneys, NCLA argues the Rule violates the First Amendment, which fully protects offensive, derogatory, or demeaning speech. “Derogatory” or “demeaning” speech is not subject to decreased constitutional protection simply because it is spoken by a lawyer in a setting “related to the practice of law.” Rule 8.4(7)’s lack of clarity deprives attorneys of the ability to discern what speech and conduct it proscribes, so they will be forced to “chill” their speech on certain subjects to provide extra assurance that they will not be the targets of disciplinary proceedings for violating it in unforeseen ways. The Rule also grants enforcement personnel too much discretion to decide what speech is sanctionable and what speech is not.

Many states have either completely or largely rejected the adoption of similar American Bar Association-proposed rules of professional conduct because they infringe on free-speech rights. A federal court struck down one such rule in Pennsylvania in 2020.

Attorney Timothy Moynahan, Plaintiff

Margaret A. Little
Senior Litigation Counsel

Appellants' Reply Brief

April 12, 2023 | Read More

Brief of Defendants-Appellees

March 30, 2023 | Read More

Brief of Amicus Curiae Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants and Reversal

March 1, 2023 | Read More

Appellants' Opening Brief

February 24, 2023 | Read More

Ruling on Motion to Dismiss

August 29, 2022 | Read More


NCLA Asks Second Circuit to Strike Down New Ethics Rule Muzzling Connecticut Attorneys’ Speech

February 27, 2023 | Read More

NCLA Contests Vague Rule that Unconstitutionally Chills Free Speech for Attorneys in Connecticut

November 10, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Contests Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Vague CT Rule Regulating Attorneys’ Speech

February 17, 2021 | Read More




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