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Greenberg Traurig’s Barry Richard Obtains United States Supreme Court Decision in Favor of Longtime Client The Florida Bar

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. May 1, 2015 – Barry Richard, a Shareholder with the Litigation Practice Group in the Tallahassee, Fla., office of international law firm Greenberg Traurig, obtained on Wednesday a favorable United States Supreme Court decision in favor of longtime client The Florida Bar in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar (Case No. 13–1499). Richard was assisted by Shareholder M. Hope Keating. The case is Richard’s fourth time – and fourth win – arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Specifically, the court ruled that states may prohibit judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions. With Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority in a split 5-4 opinion, the court rejected arguments that such bans represent a violation of the First Amendment and protections over free speech.

“A state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office,” the chief justice wrote. “A state may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money.”

The case involved Lanell Williams-Yulee, who lost a 2009 race for Judge in Hillsborough County. During the campaign, William-Yulee violated Florida rules by signing a fundraising letter and posting a solicitation. Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting contributions, although campaign managers, colleagues and friends are allowed to do so on their behalf.

The Florida Bar filed a complaint against Williams-Yulee, who was ultimately given a public reprimand and fined $1,860. While Williams-Yulee lost her election in a landslide, she challenged the Florida rule arguing that it violated her free-speech rights while providing little public benefit. 

Beyond Florida, the ruling will have implications in many of the 39 states where voters elect trial or appellate judges.

“This case involved a clash between two fundamental requirements of a democratic society - freedom of speech, and an independent and unbiased judiciary. I believe the high court found the proper balance,” Richard said.

“We are extremely proud of Barry Richard and Hope Keating’s win this week in the Supreme Court, successfully arguing a case of such significant social impact,” said Richard A. Rosenbaum, Chief Executive Officer of Greenberg Traurig. “This marks a tremendous achievement in Barry’s career. Few attorneys in our nation have earned the privilege and honor of arguing in front of the Supreme Court four times – and even fewer have done so successfully all four times. We applaud both Barry and Hope for their accomplishments.”

Richard, who concentrates his practice in the fields of complex commercial litigation, appellate law, state and federal constitutional law, and government and election law, has argued many of the significant constitutional cases both in Florida and nationally over the past two decades. Richard has argued more than 250 appellate cases nationally and has obtained appellate decisions in cases involving some of the most constitutional questions and some of the largest judgments in Florida history. 

Most notably, he represented President George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election litigation. In that capacity, he managed 46 lawsuits and personally argued several critical cases on behalf of President Bush. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, he has been retained at various times as special counsel to the Governor, the Florida Senate, the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Attorney General, the Florida Secretary of State, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Florida Department of Insurance. In the 1998 election, Richard served simultaneously as campaign legal counsel to Republican Governor Jeb Bush and the Democratic incumbent candidate for Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner (now U.S. Senator) Bill Nelson.

Keating handles appeals for clients in both state and federal courts. Her areas of representation include all aspects of civil and administrative law. Additionally, Keating regularly advises a myriad of health care facilities and providers on a wide array of complex and practical regulatory matters such as licensure, medical records, end-of-life issues, patient discharge, contracts and Medicare and Medicaid certification.