A federal appeals court has ruled that the Kentucky Bar Association violated a lawyer’s First Amendment rights when it warned him against criticizing the handling of an investigation of a state senator.
In reversing a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on July 27 found that the Kentucky attorney ethics board’s written warning to attorney John Berry amounted to an unconstitutional restriction of his free speech rights. The letter asserted that he had violated a rule prohibiting lawyers from making false statements and warned him against doing so again.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky brought the action on Berry’s behalf.
According to the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, the dispute stemmed from Berry’s criticism of the manner in which the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission in 2007 handled complaints about Kentucky Senate President David Williams’ fundraising activities.
Berry, a former