"If this had been Justice [John Paul] Stevens writing the decision, it would have been less important because he's always been a supporter of commercial speech," said David Versfelt, counsel to the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "But with Ginsburg writing the opinion and bringing six other justices along with her, that's the real significance."
Justice Ginsburg's views on commercial speech and ads had been virtually unknown. She didn't author or join in any major commercial speech cases during her tenure on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling came in a relatively narrow case involving Winter Haven, Fla., attorney Silvia Safille Ibanez, whose advertising, stationery and business cards noted she was a certified public accountant and a certified financial planner. Ms. Ibanez was certified as a CPA and planner, but the Florida Board of Accountancy reprimanded her for "false, deceptive and misleading advertising." The board made the claim because she wasn't practicing at an accounting firm or performing all the duties of an accountant.
The court decided Florida hadn't "demonstrated ... that any member of the public could have been misled by Ibanez's constitutionally protected speech."
An even more publicized political-speech case encouraged industry representatives that the Supreme Court is slowly taking on a pro-speech attitude. In that case, the court unanimously ruled last week that Ladue, Mo., couldn't ban lawn signs. The case involved a sign bearing a political statement.
"As a package, the two cases show the court to be taking a more expansive approach and that we may be getting a strong First Amendment court," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP at the Association of National Advertisers.