A federal judge in Seattle yesterday dismissed the class-action complaint filed by two lawyers against lawyer-rating site Avvo. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled that the opinions expressed through Avvo’s ratings system are absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Here is the money quote from the opinion:
“Rather than seeing the Avvo ratings for what they are — ‘that and $1.50 will get you a ride on Seattle’s new South Lake Union Streetcar’ — plaintiffs Browne and Wenokur want to make a federal case out of the number assigned to them because (a) it could harm their reputation, (b) it could cost them customers/fees, or (c) it could mislead the lawyer-hiring public into retaining poor lawyers or bypassing better lawyers. To the extent that their lawsuit has focused a spotlight on how ludicrous the rating of attorneys (and judges) has become, more power to them. To the extent that they seek to prevent the dissemination of opinions regarding
attorneys and judges, however, the First Amendment precludes their cause of action.”
The judge also ruled that Avvo does not violate the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Federal judge: Web site is free to rate lawyers.
- Avvo press release: U.S. District Court Dismisses Case Against Avvo.
- Avvo Blog: Judge Dismisses Browne v. Avvo.
- Order Granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.
Update: More on this in my post today at Legal Blog Watch.