Mark Britton

Calling it a victory for Web transparency and the First Amendment, Seattle-based Avvo today said that a judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled Florida lawyer who claimed that the company’s rating amounted to defamation and false advertising.

“We’ve said from the very beginning that we will not be bullied into censoring important information for consumers. People have a right to information about the professionals they are seeking to hire,” said Mark Britton, Founder and CEO of Avvo, in a press release. “We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Not only did we defend our right to free speech, but as one of the first decisions under the Washington anti-SLAPP law, we have demonstrated the need for anti-SLAPP legislation across the country to protect first amendment rights against lawsuits designed to censor them.”

As part of the judge’s ruling, Florida lawyer Larry Joe Davis Jr. must pay Avvo’s legal fees of more than $50,000 and pay a $10,000 fine. Davis filed his suit in August 2010, first claiming libel and later claiming false advertising and misrepresentation.

This marks the second time that Avvo has won a decision in a case involving an attorney who didn’t like his rating. In 2007, just nine days after launch, Seattle attorney John Henry Browne sued Avvo. That case was also dismissed by the United States District Court in Seattle. (Interestingly, Browne is the attorney now representing Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales who is accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians earlier this month).

Avvo, which has transformed itself into a online question-and-answer service in recent months, still operates an active directory and rating service for lawyers and health professionals.

Full judge’s ruling here.

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  • Spencer Rascoff

    Congratulations Mark & Co. Go Avvo!

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Avvo for protecting my rights as a legal consumer! No longer can lawyers be immune from criticism.

  • Dan Levitan

    awesome- congrats Mark !

  • Donny Darkoh

    Avvo automatically creates a website for every lawyer whether the lawyer consents or not. Most lawyers do NOT have reviews, but Avvo assigns them a random rating anyway based on some ‘mathematical formula’!! Even when Avvo has never met, talked, researched, or done any individual assessment at all on these lawyers. Since 90% of lawyers don’t have reviews on avvo yet, they automatically have a half star for ‘industry recognition’ even though they’ve been practicing successfully for over a decade. This is a classic case of professional defamation of character. Lawyers should at least have a right to opt out of having random personal high school enemies with a personal gripe from leaving anonymous messages, defaming their character, with facebook. Avvo is making an easy profit off of lawyers’ hard earned licenses. That’s fine. Since the court’s aren’t protecting lawyer’s rights, lawyers should just have their friends write fake reviews for them.

  • Franklin Herrington

    Think about the other side of the coin for just one minute. Yes, First Amendment guarantees are partly what makes up our democracy but what about the right to run a business without intentional interference that damages prospective business advantage? People are free to say what they want, but how do we know if what “they” are saying is trustworthy i.e. eithical; and yes, truth is an absolute defense to libel and slander but shouldn’t a safeguard be put in place “just in case” there is no valid foundation for the facts people are saying on this avvo site that do violate an attorney’s rights?

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