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First Amendment Library:
Robert H. Klonoff


A Nevada criminal defense attorney called a press conference after his client was indicted to maintain his client's innocence. He also indicated that the evidence would show that a police officer actually was guilty of the offense for which his client was charged. After his client was acquitted, the attorney was charged by the state bar association with violating Nevada Supreme Court Rule 177, which prohibits an attorney from making a statement to the press that he or she knows or reasonably should know will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding. A subsection of Rule 177 provides that an attorney may comment on general matters such as the nature of the defense. The Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board found that the attorney had violated Rule 177, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed that ruling. Speech critical of the government and its officials generally cannot be prohibited or punished absent a compelling governmental interest. Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288 (1984). On the other hand, the Court has held that the speech of attorneys participating in a particular case can be regulated if the regulation is necessary to further the ends of justice. Shepard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966). In any event, a regulation of speech cannot be enforced if it is so vague that it forces the regulated party to guess as to the limits of the regulation. Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104 (1972).