Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Geoffrey Fieger, Insulting Judges, and Free Speech.



Geoffrey Fieger, the outspoken former attorney for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is at the center of a constitutional battle involving a lawyer's right to "insult" judges outside the courtroom. The controversy involves comments made by Fieger while appearing on a radio talk show in 1999 after a Michigan appeals court overturned a $15 million verdict Fieger had won in a medical malpractice case.

The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission has reprimanded Fieger for the comments made on the radio talk show. The grievance commission found that Fieger "used numerous obscenities, called the justices 'three jackass court of appeals judges,' declared war on them and referred to them as 'Nazis.'" Fieger's attorney is arguing that the comments are protected by the First Amendment and that there's no "law" that says an attorney must be dignified.

Michigan, however, has two unique Rules of Professional Conduct, including a "courtesy" rule which requires lawyers to treat judges with respect and courtesy. The grievance commission is now asking the Michigan Supreme Court to draw the line between an attorney's free speech rights and the attorney's obligation to courtesy and professionalism.

The history of the case is outlined in this article.

Hat-tip: Legal Reader (March 20, 2006).

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