Monday, November 5, 2012

Is Texas Lawyer Master of His Domain (Name)?

English: The John Minor Wisdom U.S. Courthouse...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last week in John E. Gibson v. Texas Dept. of Insurance--Div. of Workers' Compensation et al. (Case No. 11-11136) reversed a trial court in holding that a Lubbock, Texas, attorney can proceed with his claim that a state law barring his Web site domain name violates his First Amendment rights.

As reported by the Wall St. Journal Law Blog, Gibson, a Texas board-certified specialist in workers' compensation law, was prohibited by state officials in 2011 from using the domain name because the combined use of Texas and Workers Comp constituted  inherently deceptive speech that violated a state regulation intended to protect consumers that only allows state government to use those words in tandem.

A federal district court judge dismissed Gibson's First Amendment challenge, ruling that the Texas regulation restricts commercial speech (e.g., advertising copy), which isn't accorded the same level of First Amendment protection as pure speech. The appellate court, however, sent the plaintiff's lawyer's case back to the lower court for review to determine if applying the Texas regulation to the John Gibson & Associates domain name violates First Amendment-protected speech. Not the kind of injury that would require the plaintiff to wear a neck brace.
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