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Case Basics
Docket No. 
State Bar of Arizona
(Argued the cause for the appellants)
(Argued the cause for the appellee)
(Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal)
Facts of the Case 

In regulating the Arizona Bar, the Supreme Court of Arizona restricted advertising by attorneys. Bates was a partner in a law firm which sought to provide low-cost legal services to people of moderate income who did not qualify for public legal aid. Bates and his firm would only accept routine legal matters (many of which did not involve litigation) and depended on a large number of patrons given the low financial return from each client. In assessing their concept of legal services, Bates's firm decided that it would be necessary to advertise its availability and low fees.


Did the Arizona rule, which restricted legal advertising, violate the freedom of speech of Bates and his firm as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?

Decision: 5 votes for Bates, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

The Court found that the rule violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice Blackmun argued that commercial speech does merit First Amendment protection given the important functions it serves in society, such as providing consumers with information about services and products, and helping to allocate resources in the American system of free-enterprise. The Court held that allowing attorneys to advertise would not harm the legal profession or the administration of justice, and, in fact, would supply consumers with valuable information about the availability and cost of legal services.

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BATES v. STATE BAR OF ARIZONA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
BATES v. STATE BAR OF ARIZONA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"BATES v. STATE BAR OF ARIZONA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,