Brett A. Steele

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Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc. involves the constitutionality of Florida Bar rules prohibiting personal injury lawyers from sending targeted direct-mail solicitations to accident victims and their families within thirty days following an accident. In March 1992, respondent Went For It, Inc., a lawyer referral service, and its owner, G. Stewart McHenry, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the Florida Bar, seeking declatory and injunctive relief. After referral from the district court, a magistrate judge recommended summary judgment in favor of the Florida Bar. The magistrate judge found that the Florida Bar had substantial interests, based on professionalism concerns, in protecting both the privacy and tranquility of accident victims and their families from undue influence in times of weakness. Relying on a Florida Bar two-year survey (conducted prior to enactment of the rules) which concluded lawyer advertising adversely effects public opinion, the judge held that the rules directly served these interests and were no broader than necessary. Upon de novo review, the district court rejected this recommendation and instead granted summary judgment for respondents, holding that the ban violated constitutional guarantees of free speech by significantly reducing to those in need the availability of truthful, relevant information regarding legal services. Bound by precedent, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reluctantly affirmed the decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed. The Court held that the Florida Bar's substantial interest in protecting injured residents and their families from invasive lawyer conduct was supported by statistical and anecdotal evidence, and was addressed by a regulation sufficiently narrow in scope and duration to meet First Amendment requirements.