Berry v. Schmitt

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The Legislative Ethics Commission conducted a hearing regarding fund-raising by Kentucky Senate President Williams, which attorney Berry attended. Following an executive session from which the public, the media, and Berry were excluded, the Commission dismissed. Berry wrote a letter criticizing disposition of the matter and disseminated copies to the media. The Inquiry Commission of the Kentucky Bar Association issued a warning asserting that the letter violated Kentucky Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2(a), which provides that “[a] lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer,” by publicly implying that the Commission did not conduct its review appropriately. The disciplinary complaint against Berry was dismissed. Berry did not appeal because Kentucky does not provide for an appeal of the Commission’s findings. Berry sued, alleging that he wished to engage in further criticism of the investigation but has refrained from such speech because he fears professional discipline. The district court granted the KBA summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed; Rule 8.2(a) is unconstitutional as applied to Berry’s speech. View "Berry v. Schmitt" on Justia Law