In a recent blog post, I wrote about Steven Gursten, a Michigan blogging lawyer who published a blog post in 2014 about Dr. Rosalind Griffin, a Michigan psychiatrist who testified as a medical expert for the defense in various personal injury cases Gursten filed. Attorney Gursten claimed that Dr. Griffin was one of the “notorious” Michigan doctors who, he said, was known to inappropriately aid the defense by preparing biased medical reports. Gursten asked readers to decide whether Dr. Griffin perjured herself based on several detailed examples from transcripts of her testimony in his cases which he posted online on his blog. In response, Dr. Griffin filed a grievance against attorney Gursten claiming that his blog post constituted “conduct [that] involves dishonesty and misrepresentations which reflect adversely on his honest, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer,” and also that the blog post was “prejudicial to the administration of justice” in that it portrayed the legal system in a bad light. At the time I wrote the blog article, the grievance was pending.

Since that time, the State of Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission dismissed the grievance. In its letter to Dr. Griffin, the Attorney Grievance Commission announced that “no further action” would be taken on her grievance. The Commission explained that the postings on Gurstein’s blog constituted protected speech under the state and federal constitutions:

The information Attorney Gursten posted on his blog constitutes protected speech under the Michigan and United States Constitutions.

In a post on his blog, Attorney Gursten noted that the Attorney Grievance Commission’s ruling in his case was “one of the first reported instances where what an attorney has written is found to be  constitutionally ‘protected speech.’”

Although he prevailed, Attorney Gursten indicated in his blog post that he paid a real cost in defending against the grievance:

I did have to hire a lawyer to defend me, incur attorney fees and lose considerable time from my own legal practice to respond to this grievance – a response which was demanded or would be considered misconduct.  I also have a very uncomfortable feeling that if this grievance had not received the legal attention and media scrutiny that it did, that an investigation would have been initiated. Just forcing me to respond to this grievance creates a dangerous ‘chilling effect’ for other lawyers and for their own willingness to speak out, lest they be the victim of a grievance and the costs, time and threat of sanction responding to one. For this, we all lose out and damage has already been done.

Attorney Gursten ends his story about the attorney grievance with a call to action addressed to lawyers who blog and others:

I will continue to speak out against this. I hope other attorneys will now speak out against this and other important issues that impact the public as well, hopefully knowing that we have the same rights to protected speech under the First Amendment as everyone else.

You fought the good fight and won, Steve. Thank you.

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