On November 6, the Liberty Justice Center filed a comment letter urging the Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee to reject Proposal 22-06, a proposed amendment to the Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct by the Illinois State Bar Association that could subject lawyers to ethics charges if they speak on controversial topics.
Proposal 22-06 is based on the American Bar Association’s Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g), a proposed professional conduct rule that multiple states have rejected for its risk of censoring attorneys’ speech. In January, for example, the Idaho Supreme Court issued a detailed opinion alongside its unanimous rejection of the proposed rule, describing it as “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.”
“Proposal 22-06 unconstitutionally restricts the free speech of attorneys and should be rejected. There is no professional speech exception to the First Amendment—lawyers do not forfeit their right to free expression when they’re sworn into the bar,” said Jacob Huebert, President of the Liberty Justice Center. “Courts should not adopt and enforce professional conduct rules that deliberately and unnecessarily target constitutionally protected speech, however objectionable the viewpoint.”
The Liberty Justice Center’s letter argues that Proposal 22-06 chills constitutionally protected speech and—by restricting speech based on its content and viewpoint—engages in a form of content discrimination that the Supreme Court has found presumptively unconstitutional.
“If lawyers cannot model the willingness to fight unpopular, even hateful views, by arguing with them rather than punishing them, then who can?” Jacob Huebert added. “All Illinois attorneys take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution, which both protect the right to freedom of speech. To remain true to that oath, the Rules Committee must reject Proposal 22-06.”
A copy of the letter filed by the Liberty Justice Center is available here.