For more information please call  800.727.2766


Anti-harassment Professional Rule Does Not Violate Attorney’s Free Speech

A Pennsylvania rule for lawyers states that attorneys cannot "knowingly engage in conduct constituting harassment or discrimination based upon race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status." A district court judge ruled an earlier version of the Pennsylvania rule was unconstitutional. Pennsylvania implemented the new version following that decision. The American Bar Association (ABA) has a similar rule in place. 

Zachary Greenberg, a Pennsylvania lawyer, sued the state, claiming the anti-harassment rule violates his constitutional right to free speech. He gives Continuing Legal Education (CLE) talks on First Amendment issues that he believes put him at risk of violating the rule. His presentations include discussions on the use of offensive and derogatory language, including racial and homophobic slurs, which some individuals may find offensive. Conservative, religious, and civil rights groups supported Greenberg's suit, asserting the professional rule was ripe for abuse. The ABA and other bar groups supported the state in this action.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Greenberg’s case because his claim was “not objectively reasonable or cannot be fairly traced to the rule.” The court further stated that the rule does not "arguably prohibit anything" Greenberg said he plans to do. Greenberg had said he would feel uncomfortable speaking freely on sensitive topics like race, pointing to law professors who received complaints and others who lost their jobs. However, the court said those incidents resulted from the "social climate" and not Pennsylvania's anti-harassment rule.