JOE ALFRED IZEN JR v. COMMISSION FOR LAWYER DISCIPLINE

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Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (1st Dist.).

JOE ALFRED IZEN JR., Appellant v. COMMISSION FOR LAWYER DISCIPLINE, Appellee

NO. 01-07-01114-CV

Decided: May 28, 2010

Panel consists of Justices Keyes, Alcala, and Hanks.

DISSENTING OPINION

I respectfully dissent.   I would hold that the interpretation and application in this case by the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee (Advertising Review Committee or Committee) and appellee Commission for Lawyer Discipline (Commission) of former Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 7.07, governing “Filing Requirements for Public Advertisements and Written, Recorded, Electronic, or Other Digital Solicitations,” 1 violated appellant Joe Alfred Izen Jr.'s fundamental constitutional right to due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article 1, section 19 of the Texas Constitution.2  I would vacate the judgment of the district court in favor of the Commission and render judgment that the proceedings against Izen be dismissed.3

BACKGROUND

Former Texas Disciplinary Rule 7.07(a) provided that, except as provided by paragraph (d) of the Rule, a lawyer must file with the Advertising Review Committee a copy of the written solicitation communication and a check or money order payable to the State Bar of Texas for the fee set by the Board of Directors to defray the expense of enforcing the rules related to such solicitations.  Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07, reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005) (hereinafter referred to as former Rule 7.07), current version reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon Supp.2009).4

Former Rule 7.07(b) further required that, except as provided by paragraph (d), the lawyer must file with the Advertising and Review Committee for review on or before the date of its first dissemination in the public media,”(1) a copy of the advertisement in the form in which it appears or is or will be disseminated ․;  (2) a production script of the advertisement ․ if the advertisement is in or will be in a form in which the advertised message is not fully revealed by a print copy or photograph;  (3) a statement of when and where the advertisement has been, is, or will be used;  and (4) a check or money order payable to the State Bar of Texas for the fee set by the Board of Directors.  Id. at 7.07(b).5

Former Rule 7.07(c) was a “safe harbor” provision.6  It provided that a lawyer could “secure an advance advisory opinion concerning compliance of a contemplated solicitation communication or advertisement” by “submit[ting] to the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee, not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date of first dissemination, the material specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, including the required fee.”   Id. at 7.07(c).  It stated that “[a]n advisory opinion of the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of noncompliance is not binding in a disciplinary proceeding or disciplinary action but a finding of compliance is binding in favor of the submitting lawyer if the representations, statements, materials, facts and written assurances received in connection therewith are true and are not misleading.”   Id. It warned that “[t]he finding constitutes admissible evidence if offered by a party.”  Id.

Former Rule 7.07(c) set out a detailed list of exceptions to the filing requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) for which filing was not required,7 some of them requiring subjective interpretation.   These included (1) “an advertisement in the public media that contains only part or all of the following information [set out in subsections (i)-(xii) ], provided the information is not false or misleading,” including, for example, “(xi) any disclosure or statement required by these rules” and “(xii) any other information specified from time to time in orders promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas”;  (2) “an advertisement in the public media” that meets enumerated specifications (i) and (ii);  (3) “a listing or entry in a regularly published law list”;  (4) announcement cards stating changes to a firm “or a tombstone professional card”;  (5) a newsletter satisfying enumerated restrictions (i)-(iii);  (6) written solicitation communications”not motivated by or concerned with a particular past occurrence or event or a particular series of past occurrences or events, and also ․ not motivated by or concerned with the prospective client's specific existing legal problem of which the lawyer is [aware]”;  (7) written solicitations whose use to secure professional employment was “not significantly motived by a desire for, or by the possibility of obtaining, pecuniary gain”;  and (8) written solicitations “requested by the prospective client.”  Id. at 7.07(d).

Former Rule 7.07(e) provided, “If requested by the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee, a lawyer shall promptly submit information to substantiate statements or representations made or implied in any advertisement in the public media and/or written solicitation.”  Id. at 7.07(e).8

The comments to former Rule 7.07 explained (and, as slightly amended, still explain) the State Bar's construction and administration of the rule, including the filing requirements, the State Bar's procedures for applying the rule, and the operation and extent of the “safe harbor” provision in former section 7.07(c).

Comment 2 to former Rule 7.07 stated:

2.  Copies of non-exempt written solicitations or advertisements in public media must be provided to the Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas either in advance or concurrently with dissemination, together with the fee required by the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors.   Presumably, the Advertising Review Committee will report to the appropriate grievance committee any lawyer whom it finds from the reviewed products has disseminated an advertisement in the public media or written solicitation communication that violates Rules 7.02, 7.03, 7.04, or 7.05, or, at a minimum, any lawyer whose violation raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.   See Rule 8.03(a).9

Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07 cmt. 2.

Comment 4 to Rule 707 provided:

4.  A lawyer wishing to do so may secure an advisory opinion from the Advertising Review Committee concerning any proposed advertisement in the public media or any written solicitation in advance of its first use or mailing by complying with Rule 7.07(c).  This procedure is intended as a service to those lawyers who want to resolve any possible doubts about their proposed advertisements' or written solicitations' compliance with these Rules before utilizing them.   Its use is purely optional․

Id. at 7.07 cmt. 4. Comment 4 further stated that advance clearance was not required and that a finding of noncompliance by the Advertising Review Committee was not binding in a disciplinary proceeding, but a finding of compliance was binding, so long as the lawyer's presentation to the Committee in connection with the advisory opinion “is true and not misleading.”  Id.

Comment 5 set out the State Bar's administrative procedure for evaluating filings under former Rule 7.07, including requests for advisory opinions.   It stated that, “[u]nder its Internal Rules and Operating Procedures, the Advertising Review Committee is to complete its evaluations no later than 25 days after the date of receipt of a filing.”  Id. at 7.07 cmt. 5. It continued:

The only way that the Committee can extend that review period is to:  (1) determine that there is reasonable doubt whether the advertisement or written solicitation communication complies with these Rules;  (2) conclude that further examination is warranted but cannot be completed within the 25-day period;  and (3) advise the lawyer of those determinations in writing within that 25-day period.   The Committee's Internal Rules and Operating Procedures also provide that a failure to send such a communication to the lawyer within the 25-day period constitutes approval of the advertisement or written solicitation communication.   Consequently, if an attorney submits an advertisement in the public media or written solicitation communication to the Committee for advance approval not less than 30 days prior to the date of first dissemination as required by these Rules, the attorney will receive an assessment of that advertisement or communication before the date of its first intended use.

Id. at 7.07 cmt. 5.

In January, 2003, the Advertising Review Committee sent a letter to Izen concerning an advertisement that had appeared in a Brady, Texas Yellow Pages telephone directory.   The letter notified Izen that the Brady advertisement had not been submitted for review as required by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.   The letter stated, in relevant part:

It has come to the attention of the staff of the Advertising Review Department that you or your firm has disseminated either a public media advertisement or a written communication in violation of Part 7 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.   A copy of the ad or writing in question is attached.

Section 7.07 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct outlines the filing requirements for advertisements and written solicitations.   Most ads and written solicitations are required by Rules 7.07(a) or (b) to be filed with the Advertising Review Committee upon first dissemination.   There are certain exemptions to the filing requirements which are delineated in Rule 7.07(d).  Ads and writings exempt under 7.07(d) do not have to be filed but must still comply with all other applicable provisions of Part 7. Ads and writings not exempt under 7.07(d) must meet the filing requirements of 7.07(a) and (b) and must also comply with all other applicable provisions of Part 7.

The letter advised Izen that “if an ad or writing is non-exempt, the failure to file such ad or writing with the Committee is a violation of the advertising rules even if the ad or writing complies with the rules in all other respects.”   It informed him that the Advertising Review Committee “can report to the appropriate grievance committee any lawyer whom it finds has disseminated an advertisement or writing that violates any portion of Part 7. However, in an initial effort to handle violations administratively before reporting an attorney to the grievance system, the Committee will allow you one opportunity to submit your advertisement or written solicitation letter for review at this time.”

The letter “requested” that Izen “file the attached ad or writing with the Advertising Review Department,” i.e., the Brady directory listing, within twenty (20) days of his receipt of the letter,

in the form of an official application packet which includes:  a copy of the ad or writing, a completed application form, and a $75.00 filing fee.   In addition, there is a late filing fee of $225.00 assessed to each advertisement or written solicitation letter that is not timely filed as required by Rule 7.07(a) or (b) but rather is filed in response to a certified letter from the Advertising Review Committee.   Therefore, in order for us to accept your application packet for filing, it must be accompanied by a $75.00 standard filing fee and a $225.00 late filing fee for a total of $300.00.   These fees should be combined into one check.

The letter reminded Izen that “[t]he rules, filing requirements, and application form were published in the June 1995 issue of the Texas Bar Journal,” and it enclosed an application form and the website address at which the form could be found, “[a]s an accommodation to you.”   The letter then stated:

If your completed packet is not received in this office by the twentieth (20th) day following the date of your receipt of this letter, the Committee will forward this matter to the appropriate grievance committee for disciplinary action.   It is absolutely essential that you include your unique file number (referenced above) on all correspondence pertaining to this matter.   The inclusion of this number will allow us to accurately remove your file from those pending disciplinary action.   Thank you for your cooperation.

A copy of Izen's advertisement in the Brady directory was attached to the Committee's letter.

In response to the Committee's letter, Izen submitted an application for review of the Brady directory listing, along with the $300 filing fee.   During its review of the Brady advertisement, the Committee sua sponte reviewed the two websites used by Izen, but it did not notify Izen that it had broadened the scope of its investigation into other advertisements and other potential rule violations.

During the course of its review, the Committee noted items in the Brady advertisement and on the websites that it determined violated various State Bar Rules concerning advertisements.   However, it did not notify Izen of its determinations, violating the provisions in its own Internal Operating Procedures (I.O.P.s) that required it “to complete its evaluations no later than 25 days after the date of receipt of a filing” and that further provided that “[t]he only way that the Committee can extend that review period is to:  (1) determine that there is reasonable doubt whether the advertisement or written solicitation communication complies with these Rules;  (2) conclude that further examination is warranted but cannot be completed within the 25-day period;  and (3) advise the lawyer of those determinations in writing within that 25-day period.”   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l ConductT 7.07 cmt. 5. Instead, the Committee referred both the Brady Yellow Pages advertisement and the websites to the Commission for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings for violations of Rule 7.07 and all the rules it had determined that Izen's advertisements violated.

The Committee's action in referring Izen's Yellow Pages advertisement and websites to the Commission for prosecution without notice of the result of its review of the Brady Yellow Pages ad, and without notice that it had broadened its investigation to include Izen's websites and other potential rule violations beyond the violation of former Rule 7.07 referenced in its January 2003 letter, also violated the provision in its I.O.P.s that a failure to send a communication regarding the result of the Committee's review to the lawyer within the 25-day period “constitutes approval of the advertisement or written solicitation communication.”  Id. And it belied the State Bar's representation in the Comment to Rule 7.07 that, “[c]onsequently, if an attorney submits an advertisement in the public media or written solicitation communication to the Committee for advance approval not less than 30 days prior to the date of first dissemination as required by these Rules, the attorney will receive an assessment of that advertisement or communication before the date of its first intended use.”  Id.

The Commission-like the Committee, an arm of the State Bar-filed a petition in district court alleging that Izen had violated Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct 7.01(a), 7.01(e), 7.02(a)(2), 7.04(b)(3), 7.04(j), 7.07(b), 7.04(e), and 5.03(b)(1).10  The disciplinary rules the Commission claimed Izen had violated contained a number of restrictions on attorney advertising beyond those set out or referenced in Rule 7.07, of whose violation he had been notified.11

The Commission claimed that Izen had engaged in false and deceptive advertising by “constructively authorizing” the Brady directory listing and by failing to seek approval of the ad in writing before publishing it in the Brady Yellow Pages.   It then expanded its complaint to include the contents of the two websites owned and disseminated by Izen, and it accused him of misleading and/or defrauding the public by stating he was licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and various other federal courts on the ground that the right to practice before a court is not a “license”;  by failing to place the required disclaimers “not board certified” in a conspicuous place in the two websites;  by comparing his legal services to other attorneys in a false and misleading manner by stating he was considered by his clients “[t]o be a highly proficient attorney with few peers in the legal profession when it comes to a committed defense of those he represents” without proof of this statement by “verifiable and objective data”;  and by practicing law under a trade name, specifically “Texas Legal Services,” based on the Brady Yellow Pages ad and the wording of his “divorceintexas” website.

Izen responded that the Committee and the Commission had denied him administrative due process and violated their own rules and regulations by failing to provide him an opportunity for review even though it had demanded, was paid, and accepted and retained the late fees it solicited.   He also responded that he had changed the Brady Yellow Pages ad when he did not hear from the Committee.   He denied authorizing the ad in the form in which it was printed and claimed that, once he discovered the errors, he disconnected the telephone line to the Brady office and refused to accept any clients from the telephone number.   Izen contended, and the Committee and the Commission admitted, that he had the right to practice before the United States Supreme Court and all federal district courts and courts of appeal listed in his websites.   He asserted that no “legal services” were offered to the public through the “divorceintexas” website, that the website only promoted and sold legal books and forms, that his competitors were publishers Nolo Press and Parsons Technology, and that the activity advertised on the website was exempted from the Texas definition of the practice of law.   Finally, he argued that the opinions he attributed to his clients in his advertisements were supported by his participation in recently reported tax decisions and the opinions of his fellow practitioners.

Following trial to a jury, the district court entered judgment specifically reciting that the jury had found violations of Rules 7.01(a), 7.01(e), 7.02(a)(2), 7.04(b)(3), 7.04(e), 7.04(j), 7.07(b), and 5.03(b)(1) and stating, “The Court further finds and concludes that the proper discipline of Respondent for each act of professional misconduct as found in this case is suspension from the practice of law.”   The trial court's judgment suspended Izen's license to practice law, probated for 24 months, and imposed sanctions on him in the form of court costs and attorney's fees incurred by appellee, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline.

Due Process

In his first issue, Izen contends the judgment of the trial court should be reversed and judgment rendered in his favor “based on the State Bar Advertising Review Committee and the Commission for Lawyer Discipline's violation of their own rules and regulations[,] administrative due process[,] and failure to exhaust administrative remedies.”   He contends that the Committee falsely promised him it would review the Brady Yellow Pages ad if he made an application and paid the fees and that he could resolve any complaints about the ad informally and avoid the filing of a formal grievance.   He contends he paid the fees demanded and that the Committee retained his money but refused to review the ad in question and, instead, made further complaints against him concerning ads other than those initially raised and filed a grievance against him.  Id. He contends that he “had a substantive liberty and property interest protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Due Process of Law provisions of the Texas Constitution to the informal resolution of the Committee's Complaint(s) offered at a price by the Committee's solicitations.”  Id.

I interpret Izen's complaint to be that he has a fundamental constitutional property interest in his law license that entitles him to due process before he may be suspended from the practice of law.   I agree that his due process rights under the Fifth Amendment and the Texas Constitution were violated by the State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Committee and Commission for Lawyer Discipline's application to him of the procedures described in former Rule 7.07 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.   I would hold, therefore, that, Rule 7.07, as applied in this case, is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of both the Federal and Texas Constitutions.

A. Standard of Review

As an agency, a commission like the Commission for Lawyer Discipline “is a creation of the legislature with no inherent authority and only those powers that are ‘expressly conferred upon it.’ ”  Lee v. Tex. Workers' Compensation Comm'n, 272 S.W.3d 806, 813 (Tex.App.-Austin 2008, no pet.) (quoting Public Util. Comm'n v. City Pub. Serv. Bd., 53 S.W.3d 310, 316 (Tex.2001)).   Under the Texas State Bar Act, the power to exercise administrative control over the Texas State Bar, a public corporation and an administrative agency of the judicial department of government, resides in the Supreme Court.  Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 81.011 (Vernon 2005).   The Act was promulgated by the Legislature “in aid of the judicial department's powers under the constitution to regulate the practice of law,” and it confers power on the “Supreme Court of Texas, on behalf of the judicial department,” to “exercise administrative control over the state bar under this chapter.”   Id. at § 81.011(b), (c);  see also Preamble, Tex. Gov't Code, tit. 2, subtit.   G app.   A preamble (Vernon 2005) (stating that State Bar Rules are adopted in aid of supreme court's “inherent power to regulate the practice of law”);  Texans Against Censorship, Inc. v. State Bar of Texas, 888 F.Supp. 1328, 1334 (E.D.Tex.1995), aff'd 100 F.3d 953 (5th Cir.1996) (stating that power to regulate practice of law resides in Supreme Court and derives from both statutory grant of power and Supreme Court's inherent judicial power).   The power to regulate the practice of law is thus an administrative one.  State Bar of Texas v. Gomez, 891 S.W.2d 243, 245 (Tex.1994).   And the actions of the State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Committee and Lawyers Disciplinary Commission are undertaken in aid of the Supreme Court's inherent judicial power to exercise administrative authority to regulate the practice of law.   See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 81.011. The Committee and the Commission are therefore agents of the state.

Due process is implicated when the state or its agents deprives a person of a protected liberty or property interest.  Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 570-71, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 2706 (1972);  Lee, 272 S.W.3d at 817.   Thus, in order to bring a due process claim, a Texas plaintiff must assert a liberty or property interest that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution or article I, section 19 of the Texas Constitution.   See Roth, 408 U.S. at 569, 92 S.Ct. at 2705-06 (noting “due process appl [ies] only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property”);  see also Concerned Cmty. Involved Dev., Inc. v. City of Houston, 209 S.W.3d 666, 671 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, pet. denied) (“The Due Process Clause is only activated when there is some substantial liberty or property interest which is deserving of procedural protections.”).  “To have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it.   He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it.   He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it.”  Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Yeo, 171 S.W.3d 863, 870 n.19 (Tex.2005) (quoting Roth, 408 U.S. at 577, 92 S.Ct. at 2709).

An attorney has a constitutionally protected interest in his license to practice law.   See Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12, 15, 26 n.4, 121 S.Ct. 365, 368, 374 n.4 (2000) (finding property interest requiring due process in video poker license and stating that “[t]he question whether a state-law right constitutes ‘property’ or ‘rights to property’ is a matter of federal law,” and”[i]n come contexts, ․ individuals have constitutionally protected property interests in state-issued licenses essential to pursuing an occupation or likelihood”);  Barry v. Barchi, 443 U.S. 55, 99 S.Ct. 2642 (1979) (harness racing trainer license);  Gershenfeld v. Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 641 F.Supp. 1419, 1423 (E.D.Pa.1986) (law license);  Statewide Grievance Comm. v. Johnson, 946 A.2d 1256, 1261, 108 Conn.App. 74, 81 (Conn.App.Ct.2008) (holding that license to practice law is property interest that cannot be suspended without due process, “[i]n part because such actions are adversary proceedings of a quasi-criminal nature”).

When a constitutionally protected property interest is at stake, the courts must determine what process is due to protect that interest.  Roth, 408 U.S. at 571, 92 S.Ct. at 2706;  Lee, 272 S.W.3d at 817.   In so doing, they rely upon a three-pronged test, “weighing (1) the private interest affected by the state action;  (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation of a constitutionally protected interest under the procedures used and the likely benefit of any additional procedures;  and (3) the government's interest, including the fiscal and administrative burdens that additional procedural requirements would entail.”   Lee, 272 S.W.3d at 817;  see Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, 903 (1976);  Univ. of Tex. Med. Sch. v. Than, 901 S.W.2d 926, 930 (Tex.1995).   Due process requires, at a minimum, notice and an opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time in a meaningful manner.   Mathews, 424 U.S. at 333, 96 S.Ct. at 902;  Perry v. Del Rio, 67 S.W.3d 85, 92 (Tex.2001).   A license to practice law constitutes a type of property whose divestment cannot be affected without affording substantial due process, including the opportunity to be heard and to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.  In re Ming, 469 F.2d 1352, 1353 (7th Cir.1972) (holding that failure to afford hearing prior to issuing order of suspension based on misdemeanor conviction violated due process).

In In re Ruffalo, the United States Supreme Court held that where an attorney in state disbarment proceedings had no notice that his employment of a certain person would be considered a disbarment offense until after both he and that person had testified at length on all material facts pertaining to that phase of his case, the absence of fair notice as to the reach of the grievance procedure and the precise nature of the charges against him deprived the attorney of procedural due process, even though he was thereafter given several months to respond to the charge.  390 U.S. 544, 550-52, 88 S.Ct. 1222, 1226 (1968).   The court stated that disbarment, which is designed to protect the public, is a punishment or penalty imposed on the attorney and, therefore, he is entitled to procedural due process, including notice of the charge.  Id. at 550, 88 S.Ct. at 1226.   Thus, when proceedings for disbarment are not based on matters occurring in open court in the presence of judges, notice should be given to the attorney of the charges made and an opportunity afforded him to explain and defend against them.  Id. It held that an attorney is entitled to procedural due process in disbarment proceedings, including fair notice of the charge.   See id.

The Supreme Court specifically observed in Ruffalo that the petitioner had had no notice that his employment of the employee would be considered a disbarment offense until after both he and the employee had testified at length on all the material facts pertaining to that phase of his case.  Id. at 550-51, 88 S.Ct. at 1226.   The Court commented, quoting the dissenting judge in the court below, “Such procedural violation of due process would never pass muster in any normal civil or criminal litigation.”  Id. at 551, 88 S.Ct. at 1226.   It stated:

These are adversary proceedings of a quasi-criminal nature.   The charge must be known before the proceedings commence.   They become a trap when, after they are underway, the charges are amended on the basis of testimony of the accused.   He can then be given no opportunity to expunge the earlier statements and start afresh.

Id. (internal citations omitted).

The Court specifically noted that the state and local bar associations that filed amici briefs had argued that there was no due process violation because the state disciplinary board had given Ruffalo several months to respond to the charge.  Id. at 551 n.4, 88 S.Ct. at 1226 n.4. The Court disagreed, stating,

This argument overlooks the fact that serious prejudice to petitioner may well have occurred because of the content of the original 12 specifications of misconduct.   He may well have been lulled ‘into a false sense of security’ (Bouie v. City of Columbia, 378 U.S. 347, 352, 84 S.Ct. 1697, 1702, 12 L.Ed.2d 894) that he could rebut charges Nos. 4 and 5 by proof that [the employee] was his investigator rather than a solicitor of clients.   In that posture he had ‘no reason even to suspect’ (ibid.) that in doing so he would be, by his own testimony, irrevocably assuring his disbarment under charges not yet made.

Id. The Court held, “This absence of fair notice as to the reach of the grievance procedure and the precise nature of the charges deprived petitioner of procedural due process.”  Id. at 552, 88 S.Ct. at 1226.

B. Analysis

Izen asserts the letter from the Committee creates an entitlement to “an initial effort to handle violations administratively before reporting an attorney to the grievance system.”   He contends the letter is a mutually explicit understanding to reach “informal resolution of any [c]omplaint concerning Izen's ads, without a filing of a formal grievance” or “resolve any potential grievance informally.”   Specifically, he states, “The Committee failed to follow the very procedures which it outlined in its letters [sic]:  (1) pay a fee, (2) apply for a review of the ad, and (3) resolve any potential grievance informally.”   I agree.

In my view, this case is virtually on all fours with Ruffalo.   The Committee's letter appeared to extend to Izen the protections of the safe harbor in former Rule 7.07(c), but, in fact, it did not.   Instead, as with the notice to Ruffalo, which cited only the “original 12 specifications of misconduct,” the Committee's letters cited only to Izen's violation of former Rule 7.07, consisting of his publishing the Brady Yellow Pages ad without filing it with the Committee.   Furthermore, “in an initial effort to handle violations administratively before reporting an attorney to the grievance system,” the letter specifically offered him “one opportunity to submit your advertisement or written solicitation letter for review at this time,” as provided in the safe harbor rule, former Rule 7.07(c), upon his paying the filing fee and late fee, which he did.   Thus, like Ruffalo, Izen “may well have been lulled ‘into a false sense of security’ ” that he could rebut the Committee's charges against him in accordance with the administrative procedures of the Committee as set out in Comments 4 and 5 to the Rule in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.  Ruffalo, 390 U.S. at 551, 88 S.Ct. at 1226 (quoting Bouie, 378 U.S. at 352, 84 S.Ct. at 1702);  see former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l ConductT 7.07 cmts. 4-5.

After receiving the January 2003 letter from the Advertising Review Committee and having apprised himself of the provisions of former Rule 7.07(c), Izen, like Ruffalo, “had ‘no reason even to suspect’ ․ that in [responding to the Committee's offer] he would be, by his own testimony, irrevocably assuring his [suspension] under charges not yet made.”  Ruffalo, 389 U.S. at 551 n.4, 88 S.Ct. at 1226 n.4. Nor had Izen any reason to suspect that, by coming within the sights of the Advertising Review Committee, his Brady Yellow Pages ad had set in motion a wide-ranging sua sponte State Bar investigation into all of his attorney advertising under all of its attorney advertising disciplinary rules, an investigation which, by the State Bar Advertising Review Committee's disregard of its own I.O.P.s, irrevocably assured the filing of disciplinary proceedings against him by the State Bar's Disciplinary Commission on charges of which he had been given no notice and which he had no opportunity to cure, either by attempting to comply-e.g., by disconnecting the Brady office's telephone and refusing business from the Yellow Pages ad (which he had done as a cautionary measure on failing to hear from the Committee)-or by filing a request for advisory review of all of his advertising, including his websites (one of which only sold legal books and forms) or filing a suit for a declaratory judgment on the State Bar's (unrevealed) determinations.

I would hold that by offering Izen the protections of former Rule 7.07(c) in exchange for the filing fee and late fees solicited and paid, and then by failing to follow its own I.O.P.s and extend to him the protections expressly set out in former Rule 7.07(c) and the State Bar's Comments 4 and 5 to Rule 7.07, including the opportunity to cure, and by instead broadening its sua sponte investigation to all of Izen's advertising under all of the advertising rules on its own initiative and without notice to him and then filing and prosecuting disciplinary proceedings seeking the suspension of his license to practice law, the State Bar of Texas, through its Advertising Review Committee and Commission for Lawyer Discipline, plainly violated not only the Committee's own administrative procedures but also Izen's constitutional due process rights, rendering the Committee's and the Commission's interpretation and application of former Rule 7.07 to Izen unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 1, section 19 of the Texas Constitution.   See Ruffalo, 390 U.S. at 550-52, 88 S.Ct. at 1226 (holding that absence of fair notice as to reach of grievance procedure and precise nature of charges against him in state disbarment proceeding deprived attorney of procedural due process).

Indeed, the State Bar's interpretation and application of former Rule 7.07 to Izen calls into question not only the constitutionality of that rule under the Fourteenth Amendment and article 1, section 19, but also under the First Amendment.   Upon the adoption of the Texas Supreme Court's Order of November 15, 1994, amending all of Part VII of the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the amended Rules, including former Rules 7.01, 7.02, 7.04, and 7.07 at issue in this suit, were challenged in Texans Against Censorship, Inc. v. State Bar of Texas.   888 F.Supp. 1328 (E.D.Tex.1995).   Each was held not to infringe the First Amendment's protection of commercial speech.  Id. In addition, however, former Rule 7.07 was specifically challenged in that suit as violating the constitutional prohibition against prior restraint under the First Amendment.   See id. at 1365-68.

The federal district court in Texans Against Censorship interpreted former Rule 7.07(c) as providing a safe harbor against the unconstitutional application of the advertising rules to attorneys-an interpretation directly opposite to that of the Advertising Review Committee and the Commission for Lawyer Discipline in this case-and it rested its conclusion that former Rule 7.07 did not violate the prohibition against prior restraint of free speech under the First Amendment solely on its interpretation of former section 7.07(c) as providing a safe harbor against unconstitutional prior restraint of speech by the State Bar. See id. at 1365-68.   The State Bar's contrary interpretation of former Rule 7.07(c) in this case as not providing a safe harbor against State Bar disciplinary actions to suspend an attorney's license, and therefore as not requiring notice and an opportunity to cure before the filing of disciplinary action by the State Bar, thus not only calls into question the constitutionality of Rule 7.07 under the Fourteenth Amendment and article 1, section 19 of the Texas Constitution, but also calls into question the rationale upon which the federal district court held in Texans Against Censorship that former Rule 7.07 did not violate the First Amendment.

In reaching its conclusion that former Rule 7.07 did not place an unconstitutional prior restraint on commercial speech, the federal district court in Texans Against Censorship distinguished Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 83 S.Ct. 631 (1963), as inapplicable, given the probable future interpretation of Rule 7.07(c) by the Texas State Bar Advertising Review Committee.   In Bantam Books, the United States Supreme Court had held that the practices of a state commission charged with educating the public about obscene and indecent publications amounted to an unconstitutional system of informal censorship, and therefore a prohibited prior restraint on the constitutional right to freedom of commercial speech because, even though the commission had no power to prohibit book sellers or publishers from distributing books it found to be objectionable, it notified them that it had found certain publications objectionable, that a list of those publications had been provided to local law enforcement officials, and that cooperation from the distributor or publisher would obviate the need for prosecution, causing the publishers and distributors to remove the publications from circulation.   Texans Against Censorship, 888 F.Supp. at 1367 (citing Bantam Books, 372 U.S. at 59-63, 83 S.Ct. at 633-35).

The district court in Texans Against Censorship pointed out that, in Bantam Books, the Supreme Court had stated, “Where such consultation is genuinely undertaken with the purpose of aiding the distributor to comply with such laws and avoid prosecution under them, it need not retard the full enjoyment of First Amendment Freedoms.”  Id. (citing Bantam Books, 372 U.S. at 72, 83 S.Ct. at 640).   The district court then stated, with respect to its own review of former Rule 7.07(c) of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct:

No evidence has been presented here to show even a likelihood that the Review Committee will include coercive or intimidating statements in its advance advisory opinions.   On the contrary, amended rule 7.07(c) appears to contemplate that the Review Committee will simply determine whether an advertisement or solicitation communication submitted for an advance advisory opinion complies with the Texas rules, and state the reasons for such finding.   It appears, then, that the advance opinion process is “genuinely undertaken with the purpose of aiding [lawyers] to comply” with the Texas rules, id. at 72, 83 S.Ct. at 640, and is thus not a prior restraint on speech.

Texans Against Censorship, 888 F.Supp. at 1368 (emphasis added).

Unhappily, the federal court's benign prognostication of the way in which the State Bar of Texas's Advertising Review Committee and Commission for Lawyer Discipline would interpret and apply the provision in section 7.07(c) that the federal court interpreted as a safe harbor has not been borne out by events.   True, the Committee and the Commission have not interpreted Rule 7.07 in a way that acts as a prior restraint on free speech.   They have, instead, in this case, gone far beyond interpreting Rule 7.07 as permitting the Committee to notify an attorney in advance of publication that it finds an advertisement to be false and misleading and thus to restrain its publication.   Rather, having solicited a fee for its review of the Brady Yellow Pages advertisement with the lure of a safe harbor, and without notice to Izen that it had determined that the publication violated the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct in a number of ways, the Committee initiated sua sponte an investigation of all of Izen's advertising, seeking violations under all the advertising rules;  it determined that a number of rules had been violated;  and it decided not to follow its stated internal operating proceedures and not to permit him an opportunity to cure any of the violations it had discovered.   Instead, the Advertising Review Committee notified the Commission of its findings so that disciplinary proceedings could be initiated against him on all violations determined by the Committee to have occurred.   These actions by the Committee and the initiation of disciplinary proceedings by the Committee denied Izen both fair notice as to the reach of the grievance procedure and the precise nature of the charges against him, and an opportunity to be heard and to cure any perceived violation or to question any such determination in declaratory judgment proceedings in advance of the State Bar's initiation of proceedings seeking the suspension of his license to practice law.

In its brief on appeal, the State expresses its understanding of Rule 7.07(c) as follows:

In his first issue, Izen claims that his due process rights have been violated because he possessed a protected liberty and property interest in the informal resolution of his violations of the disciplinary rules.   Izen bases his claim on a letter he received from the State Bar's Advertising Review Committee (ARC), a letter which he unreasonably interpreted as offering him the opportunity to avoid disciplinary action for multiple advertising violations by paying a $225.00 fee.

Izen's first issue is without merit.   Izen's interest in avoiding discipline did not constitute a legitimate claim of entitlement protected by the due process clause.   At most, Izen possessed an expectancy that no formal action would be taken, and his expectancy resulted from his own misunderstanding of the disciplinary rules and the letter he received from ARC. His unreasonable expectation that, simply by paying a $225.00 fee, he could avoid disciplinary action no matter how egregious his violations did not constitute an interest protected by the constitution or other law.

The understanding of the purpose of former Rule 7.07(c) evinced by the Committee and the Commission in this case is the exact opposite of the federal district court's understanding of the purpose of former Rule 7.07(c) as providing a safe harbor from prosecution and therefore as preventing the unconstitutionality of the Texas State Bar lawyer advertising rules, namely that Rule 7.07(c) offered “consultation ․ genuinely undertaken with the purpose of aiding [lawyers] to comply with such laws and avoid prosecution under them.”  Texans Against Censorship, 888 F.Supp. at 1367 (quoting Bantam Books, 372 U.S. at 72, 83 S.Ct. at 640).   It is also the exact opposite of the interpretation of the type of restriction of free speech that “need not retard the full enjoyment of First Amendment Freedoms.”  Id. It is the exact opposite of the way the United States Supreme Court interpreted the due process fair notice requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment in Ruffalo.   And it is the exact opposite of the way I too would interpret former Rule 7.07(c) and its protections.

It is inconceivable to me that Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 7.07, as interpreted and applied in this case by the State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Committee and appellee the Commission for Lawyer Discipline could pass constitutional muster under either the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution or article 1, section 19 of the Texas Constitution, and I would hold that it does not.

Conclusion

I would hold that former Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 7.07 was unconstitutionally applied to Izen in deprivation of his right to due process of law under the United States and Texas Constitutions and that this constitutional violation tainted all of the charges against him in this case.   I would, therefore, vacate the judgment of the trial court and render judgment that the proceedings against Izen be dismissed.

FOOTNOTES

FN1. Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07, reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005) (hereinafter referred to as former Rule 7.07), current version reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon Supp.2009)..  FN1. Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07, reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005) (hereinafter referred to as former Rule 7.07), current version reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon Supp.2009).

FN2. Article 1, section 19 provides:No citizen of this State shall be deprived of life, liberty, property, privileges or immunities, or in any manner disfranchised, except y the due course of the law of the land.Tex. Const. art. 1, § 19..  FN2. Article 1, section 19 provides:No citizen of this State shall be deprived of life, liberty, property, privileges or immunities, or in any manner disfranchised, except y the due course of the law of the land.Tex. Const. art. 1, § 19.

FN3. This case arose in January 2003.   Therefore, the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at issue in this appeal are those in effect in 2003.   The disciplinary rules were amended effective June 1, 2005, but Izen's constitutional complaint is not mooted by the amendments to the disciplinary rules.   The rules set out and addressed here are the former rules, with citations to parallel passages in the current rules..  FN3. This case arose in January 2003.   Therefore, the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at issue in this appeal are those in effect in 2003.   The disciplinary rules were amended effective June 1, 2005, but Izen's constitutional complaint is not mooted by the amendments to the disciplinary rules.   The rules set out and addressed here are the former rules, with citations to parallel passages in the current rules.

FN4. Former Rule 7.07 provided, in relevant part:(a) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, either before or concurrently with the mailing or sending of a written solicitation communication:(b) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, either before or concurrently with the first dissemination of an advertisement in the public media, a copy of that advertisement.   The filing shall include:(c) A lawyer who desires to secure an advance advisory opinion concerning compliance of a contemplated solicitation communication or advertisement may submit to the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee, not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date of first dissemination, the material specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, including the required fee․  An advisory opinion of the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of noncompliance is not binding in a disciplinary proceeding or disciplinary action but a finding of compliance is binding in favor of the submitting lawyer if the representations, statements, materials, facts and written assurances received in connection therewith are true and are not misleading.   The finding constitutes admissible evidence if offered by a party.Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l ConductT 7.07.Section (d) of the current Rule 7.07 states, with respect to the effect of the findings of the Advertising Review Committee in response to a request for an advisory opinion:If a lawyer submits an advertisement or solicitation communication for pre-approval, a finding of noncompliance by the Advertising Review Committee is not binding in a disciplinary proceeding or disciplinary action but a finding of compliance is binding in favor of the submitting lawyer as to all materials actually submitted for pre-approval if the representations, statements, materials, facts and written assurances received in connection therewith are true and are not misleading.   The finding of compliance constitutes admissible evidence if offered by a party.Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(c), reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon Supp.2009)..  FN4. Former Rule 7.07 provided, in relevant part:(a) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, either before or concurrently with the mailing or sending of a written solicitation communication:(b) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, either before or concurrently with the first dissemination of an advertisement in the public media, a copy of that advertisement.   The filing shall include:(c) A lawyer who desires to secure an advance advisory opinion concerning compliance of a contemplated solicitation communication or advertisement may submit to the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee, not less than thirty (30) days prior to the date of first dissemination, the material specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, including the required fee․  An advisory opinion of the Lawyer Advertisement and Solicitation Review Committee of noncompliance is not binding in a disciplinary proceeding or disciplinary action but a finding of compliance is binding in favor of the submitting lawyer if the representations, statements, materials, facts and written assurances received in connection therewith are true and are not misleading.   The finding constitutes admissible evidence if offered by a party.Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l ConductT 7.07.Section (d) of the current Rule 7.07 states, with respect to the effect of the findings of the Advertising Review Committee in response to a request for an advisory opinion:If a lawyer submits an advertisement or solicitation communication for pre-approval, a finding of noncompliance by the Advertising Review Committee is not binding in a disciplinary proceeding or disciplinary action but a finding of compliance is binding in favor of the submitting lawyer as to all materials actually submitted for pre-approval if the representations, statements, materials, facts and written assurances received in connection therewith are true and are not misleading.   The finding of compliance constitutes admissible evidence if offered by a party.Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(c), reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon Supp.2009).

FN5. Current Rule 7.07 requires the submission of all lawyer advertising in whatever form.   See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(a)..  FN5. Current Rule 7.07 requires the submission of all lawyer advertising in whatever form.   See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(a).

FN6. Current Rule 7.07 adds a new section (c) that is specific to websites and contains essentially the same strictures as current section (b), which encompasses all other forms of advertisement.   Advisory opinions, formerly addressed in section 7.07(c), are now addressed in section 7.07(d).  See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07.   Former section (d), with amendments, is now section (e).  Id..  FN6. Current Rule 7.07 adds a new section (c) that is specific to websites and contains essentially the same strictures as current section (b), which encompasses all other forms of advertisement.   Advisory opinions, formerly addressed in section 7.07(c), are now addressed in section 7.07(d).  See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07.   Former section (d), with amendments, is now section (e).  Id.

FN7. Current rule 7.07(d)(1) is identical to former section 7.07(c)(1), except for the addition of a proviso that states,”provided those materials comply with Rule 7.02(a) through (c) and, where applicable, Rule 7.04(a) through (c).”  See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(d)(1)..  FN7. Current rule 7.07(d)(1) is identical to former section 7.07(c)(1), except for the addition of a proviso that states,”provided those materials comply with Rule 7.02(a) through (c) and, where applicable, Rule 7.04(a) through (c).”  See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(d)(1).

FN8. Former section (e) is now section (f), and is the same except for additional language that restricts the application of the section to representations “by which the lawyer seeks paid professional employment.”   Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(f)..  FN8. Former section (e) is now section (f), and is the same except for additional language that restricts the application of the section to representations “by which the lawyer seeks paid professional employment.”   Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.07(f).

FN9. The current comment is virtually identical except for clarifying that it applies to websites as well as written solicitations.   Both current and former Rule 8.03(a), referenced in the comment, require a lawyer who knows “that another lawyer has committed a violation of applicable rules of professional conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects” to “inform the appropriate disciplinary authority.”   Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 8.03(a), reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005)..  FN9. The current comment is virtually identical except for clarifying that it applies to websites as well as written solicitations.   Both current and former Rule 8.03(a), referenced in the comment, require a lawyer who knows “that another lawyer has committed a violation of applicable rules of professional conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects” to “inform the appropriate disciplinary authority.”   Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 8.03(a), reprinted in Tex. Gov't Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005).

FN10. See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 5.03(b)(1), 7.01(a), 7.01(e), 7.02(a)(2), 7.04(b)(3), 7.04(j), 7.07(b), and 7.04(e), reprinted in Tex. Gov't code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005).   The Rules cited are those in effect at the time of Izen's violations.   The Rules have since been amended.   For clarity and consistency, we refer to the former Rules as cited by the parties and recited in the judgment..  FN10. See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 5.03(b)(1), 7.01(a), 7.01(e), 7.02(a)(2), 7.04(b)(3), 7.04(j), 7.07(b), and 7.04(e), reprinted in Tex. Gov't code Ann., tit. 2, subtit.   G, app.   A (Vernon 2005).   The Rules cited are those in effect at the time of Izen's violations.   The Rules have since been amended.   For clarity and consistency, we refer to the former Rules as cited by the parties and recited in the judgment.

FN11. Former Rule 7.01(a) prohibited a lawyer in private practice from practicing “under a trade name, a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyer or lawyers practicing under such name, or a firm name containing names other than those of one or more of the lawyers in the firm,” with certain enumerated exceptions.   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.01( (a).   Former Rule 7.01(e) provided that “[a] lawyer shall not advertise in the public media or seek professional employment by written communication under a trade or fictitious name,” again with enumerated exceptions.  Id. at 7.01(e).   Current Rule 7.01 is virtually identical.   See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.01.Former Rule 7.02(a) provided that “[a] lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the qualifications or the services of any lawyer or firm.”   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.02((a). Subsection (a)(2) defined a communication as “false or misleading if it ․ is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate these rules or other law.”  Id. at 7.02(a)(2).   The current rule elaborates upon this definition, stating that a communication is false or misleading if it “contains any reference in a public media advertisement to past successes or results obtained unless” four enumerated criteria are met, including (i) that the lawyer served as lead counsel or had primary responsibility for the settlement or verdict, (ii) the amount involved was actually received by the client, (iii) “the reference is accompanied by adequate information regarding the nature of the case or matter, and the damages or injuries sustained by the client,” and (iv) “if the gross amount received is stated, the attorney's fees and litigation expenses withheld from the amount are stated as well.”  Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.02(a)(2).Former Rule 7.04(b)(3) required a lawyer advertising in the public media to state with respect to each area advertised in which he was not board certified that he was not or that no designation had been made by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in that area.   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct T 7.04(b)(3).   Again the current rule is more complex in requiring that an attorneyin the case of infomercial or comparable presentation, state that the presentation is an advertisement;Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.04(b)(3).Former Rule 7.04(e) required, like the current rule, that “[a]ll advertisements in the public media for a lawyer or firm must be reviewed and approved in writing by the lawyer or a lawyer in the firm.”   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct T 7.04(e).Former Rule 7.04(j) required, like the current rule, that “[a] lawyer or firm who advertises in the public media must disclose the geographic location, by city or town, of the lawyer's or firm's principal office” and “ shall not advertise the existence of any office other than the principal office” unless the office is staffed by a lawyer at least three days a week or the advertisement states the days and times a lawyer will be present at the office or “that meetings with lawyers will be by appointment only.”   Id. at 7.04(j).Former Rule 5.03(b)(1) provides that “a lawyer shall be subject to discipline for the conduct of [a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer] that would be a violation of these rules if engaged in by a lawyer if ․ the lawyer orders, encourages, or permits the conduct involved.”  Id. at 5.03..  FN11. Former Rule 7.01(a) prohibited a lawyer in private practice from practicing “under a trade name, a name that is misleading as to the identity of the lawyer or lawyers practicing under such name, or a firm name containing names other than those of one or more of the lawyers in the firm,” with certain enumerated exceptions.   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.01( (a).   Former Rule 7.01(e) provided that “[a] lawyer shall not advertise in the public media or seek professional employment by written communication under a trade or fictitious name,” again with enumerated exceptions.  Id. at 7.01(e).   Current Rule 7.01 is virtually identical.   See Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.01.Former Rule 7.02(a) provided that “[a] lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the qualifications or the services of any lawyer or firm.”   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.02((a). Subsection (a)(2) defined a communication as “false or misleading if it ․ is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate these rules or other law.”  Id. at 7.02(a)(2).   The current rule elaborates upon this definition, stating that a communication is false or misleading if it “contains any reference in a public media advertisement to past successes or results obtained unless” four enumerated criteria are met, including (i) that the lawyer served as lead counsel or had primary responsibility for the settlement or verdict, (ii) the amount involved was actually received by the client, (iii) “the reference is accompanied by adequate information regarding the nature of the case or matter, and the damages or injuries sustained by the client,” and (iv) “if the gross amount received is stated, the attorney's fees and litigation expenses withheld from the amount are stated as well.”  Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.02(a)(2).Former Rule 7.04(b)(3) required a lawyer advertising in the public media to state with respect to each area advertised in which he was not board certified that he was not or that no designation had been made by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in that area.   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct T 7.04(b)(3).   Again the current rule is more complex in requiring that an attorneyin the case of infomercial or comparable presentation, state that the presentation is an advertisement;Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct 7.04(b)(3).Former Rule 7.04(e) required, like the current rule, that “[a]ll advertisements in the public media for a lawyer or firm must be reviewed and approved in writing by the lawyer or a lawyer in the firm.”   Former Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof'l Conduct T 7.04(e).Former Rule 7.04(j) required, like the current rule, that “[a] lawyer or firm who advertises in the public media must disclose the geographic location, by city or town, of the lawyer's or firm's principal office” and “ shall not advertise the existence of any office other than the principal office” unless the office is staffed by a lawyer at least three days a week or the advertisement states the days and times a lawyer will be present at the office or “that meetings with lawyers will be by appointment only.”   Id. at 7.04(j).Former Rule 5.03(b)(1) provides that “a lawyer shall be subject to discipline for the conduct of [a nonlawyer employed or retained by or associated with a lawyer] that would be a violation of these rules if engaged in by a lawyer if ․ the lawyer orders, encourages, or permits the conduct involved.”  Id. at 5.03.

Justice Keyes dissenting.

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