Milavetz, Fallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States

United States Supreme Court upholds government’s ability to require that businesses disclose factual information to consumers.

The Issue: A law firm challenged provisions of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 that required “debt relief agencies,” including some law firms, to disclose certain facts in their advertising. The law firm argued that the Court should adopt a stringent standard for review of mandated factual disclosures.

Why It Matters: The standard of First Amendment review proposed by the law firm would jeopardize a host of federal, state and local laws that, in order to protect the public, require nutritional labeling, warnings concerning exposure to toxic substances or workplace hazards, corporate release of information before registering securities for public trade, and publication of gas mileage for automobiles, to name just a few examples.

Public Good’s Contribution: Recognizing the potential far-reaching and destructive consequences of the framework proposed by the law firm, Public Good stepped in to ensure that the Court was aware of the import of its treatment of what the parties considered a secondary issue. Public Good demonstrated that the law firm’s proposed standard of First Amendment review was not—and had never been—applicable to government-mandated factual disclosures in commercial contexts. Public Good’s was the only amicus brief to address the issue.

Amici joining Public Good: Public Good’s brief was filed on behalf of itself and prominent national public health organizations: the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Environmental Law Foundation, and the Center for Environmental Health.

Outcome: The Supreme Court substantially accepted Public Good’s analysis, closely following the reasoning of our brief. Specifically, the Court held that the challenged disclosure requirements did not offend the First Amendment, and affirmed a quarter-century-old precedent (that the case had threatened) according more lenient First Amendment review to compelled commercial disclosures.

541 F.3d 785 (8th Cir. 2008), affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, 130 S.Ct. 1324 (2010).

Download our brief filed in the Milavetz, Fallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States case.