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Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel

United States Supreme Court
471 U.S. 626 (1985)


In 1982, attorney Zauderer (defendant) took out advertisements in 36 Ohio newspapers announcing that his firm represented women on a contingent-fee basis in cases related to injuries caused by the Dalkon Shield Intrauterine Device (IUD). The advertisements featured an illustration of the IUD. The advertisements also gave a telephone number that individuals could call for “free information.” Zauderer acquired clients as a result of the ads. Ohio’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) (plaintiff) investigated the ads for violations of a rule against the use of illustrations in legal advertising, a rule against offering legal advice in an advertisement, and a rule requiring that any offer of contingent-fee representation contain a disclaimer informing prospective clients that they might be liable for costs incurred in the lawsuit. Ohio’s Board of Commissioners (Board) reviewed the disciplinary charges and issued an opinion. The Board found that Zauderer’s advertisements did not cause harm to any member of the public through invasion of privacy, overreaching, or undue influence. Nonetheless, the Board issued a reprimand against Zauderer. Zauderer petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review. On review, ODC asserted that the Board’s disciplinary decision served as a prophylactic measure to prevent the publishing of advertisements that tended to encourage lawsuits or posed a risk of public harm through undue influence, overreaching, or invasion of privacy. ODC argued that the decision did not unduly burden First Amendment speech, because it represented the least restrictive means to advance compelling government interests. In support of restricting speech in legal advertisements, ODC asserted that it is more difficult for the public to identify false claims in legal advertising than in other types of commercial advertising. In support of the ban on images in legal advertising, ODC asserted that imagery poses a heightened risk of deceiving or offending some individuals.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

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