The New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments on November 10 about whether certain keyword advertising by attorneys should be prohibited. In re Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics Opinion No. 735;
At the invitation of the Court, NJCJI filed a brief and argued the issue as a friend of the court.
Like other businesses, attorneys often purchase “keyword” advertising to market their practices. Some attorneys purchase a competitor’s name as one of those keywords, and the Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether such advertisements are fraudulent and therefore prohibited by attorney ethics rules.
Shalom Stone (founder of Stone Conroy LLC) appeared on behalf of NJCJI and argued that the Court should tread carefully. A finding that such keyword advertisements are fraudulent as between attorneys could lead to a finding that such advertisements are fraudulent in other business contexts, resulting in a flood of lawsuits over “fraudulent” internet advertising.
NJCJI argued that ethics rules should also address attorney advertisements that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, could leave consumers with the “false impression” that their prescription drugs “cause harms that outweigh their benefits.” (In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission took steps to address this growing problem, issuing a series of letters to seven lawyers and legal advertisers about their potentially misleading advertisements.) Attorney advertisements that mislead consumers about pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices, like other misleading attorney ads, are not protected by the First Amendment, and should be prohibited.
The Court will be ruling on the case at a later date. Click here for a story from Law 360 (paywall) on the hearing.
If you would like to discuss this case further please contact Shalom Stone, Stone Conroy, 973-400-4182 or firstname.lastname@example.org.