A lawyer did not violate an ethics rule when he wrote about his cases on the Internet without client consent, a three-judge panel said today. The panel overturned a district discipline committee’s finding of misconduct under Rule 1.6, which governs confidentiality of information.
In a decision announced by Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Kenneth R. Melvin, the panel dismissed the district court committee finding as “contrary to the law” because it violates the First Amendment. Richmond criminal defense lawyer Horace F. Hunter said his descriptions of cases he successfully handled were drawn from the public record, but Virginia State Bar disciplinary officials said Hunter violated his duty of loyalty to his clients.
But the judicial panel upheld the district committee decision that Hunter’s failure to include a website disclaimer warning that others’ case results could vary did violate Rules 7.1(a)(4) and 7.2(a)(3), which cover communications about a lawyer’s services. The panel upheld a public admonition for this violation and ordered Hunter to post a disclaimer within 30 days. Both decisions were unanimous.
The panel also included Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Alfred D. Swersky and Portsmouth Circuit Court Judge Von L. Piersall Jr.