Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Virginia State Bar rules against law firm ads using Man from U.N.C.L.E

According to this report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginia State Bar has concluded that the television ads of the Richmond-area Marks & Harrison firm, featuring actor Robert Vaughn (who also starred as the client of lawyer Paul Newman in "The Young Philadelphians") are misleading "because they imply that cases are decided on something other than their merits." First Amendment expert and University of Richmond law professor Rodney Smolla is representing the law firm, and he said that "the First Amendment protects the use of humor and parody in the ads of law firms, just as it does in ads for other services."

In The Young Philadelphians, Vaughn is accused of murder, the butler among others testifies against him, and the Newman character tricks the butler on cross-examination into saying that gin is tap water, drawing a sputtering objection from the prosecutor. (I never saw anything like that the one time I was spectator in the Philadelphia courtroom of Judge Norma Shapiro.)

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