State Bar ignores Attorney General Paxton’s warning letter, proceeds with anti-free speech rule for lawyers

State Senator Brandon Creighton (left), President Donald Trump (right), and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (center), met in Houston on September 22, 2019.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Austin, September 11 – The left-leaning State Bar of Texas Board of Directors ignored Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s written warning that the American Bar Association’s Model Disciplinary Rule 8.4(g) would violate the constitutional rights of Texas lawyers and proceeded in a near-unanimous vote to refer the controversial rule to a State Bar Committee for further consideration. The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 8.4(g) provides:

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to…

“(g) engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules.”

Paxton issued a letter on Wednesday, September 9, urging the State Bar of Texas to drop any consideration of American Bar Association Model Rule 8.4(g). The letter warned that the proposed rule threatens the individual liberty of Texas lawyers and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. In December 2016, Attorney General Paxton issued an opinion describing the Rule’s glaring unlawfulness. And in 2018, the United States Supreme Court concluded that state restrictions on “professional speech” are presumptively unconstitutional, because they are content-based restrictions on speech.

“The proposed Rule is broad enough to extend beyond judicial proceedings to include participation in education panel discussions, authoring law review articles, or even informal conversations at a bar association event. It effectively suppresses honest and thoughtful exchanges about complex issues,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Methods of addressing attorney discrimination already exist, rendering the proposed Rule not just unconstitutional, but wholly unnecessary.”

The State Bar Board of Directors heard seven (7) hours of public comment about the proposed rule during a virtual meeting on Thursday, September 10. Several constitutional scholars spoke against the proposed rule.

Paxton has indicated that his office may file a constitutional challenge to the Rule, if the State Bar were to adopt it.

Robin Parrish, an Austin attorney, told the Bar Board on Thursday, “The change to the rule is not justified by current political anger…Candidly, the new proposal is only a model of left-wing political wokeness and P.C. virtue signaling, as has been shown here today…I believe you all should not be taking up anti-Christian, anti-free speech restrictions on lawyers … The rule talks about ‘gender identity,’ which in reality is something only God decides.”

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