It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when lawyers were restricted about what they could say to the news media regarding the innocence of their clients, but that was the rule for Nevada attorneys back in the 1980’s.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of a landmark First Amendment ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The legal community gathered at the Mixx restaurant to celebrate the 5-4 decision in the case of Gentile vs. the State Bar of Nevada.
Prominent defense attorney Dominic Gentile challenged the rule which put limits on what attorneys could say about their cases.
He called his first and only news conference in 1988 to defend his client: a businessman named Grady Sanders who was suspected of looting clients’ safety deposit boxes inside a vault he owned.
The Nevada Supreme Court upheld a private reprimand of Gentile, but the lawyer decided to fight it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
“There is no question it changed my career. Every law student since 1992 has had that case in their professional responsibility course – every law student, and it’s still in the books,” he said.
The ruling opened the way for lawyers to speak to news media about their cases, without being reprimanded.
Gentile has lectured at Harvard and other prominent law schools about what is widely seen as a victory for the First Amendment.
That case also changed the trajectory of his own practice from criminal defense to free speech issues.