This is one in a series of profiles marking the 60th anniversary of the ACLU of Kentucky’s founding. Each week through December 2015 we will highlight the story of one member, client, case, board or staff member that has been an integral part of our organization’s rich history.
John M. Berry, Jr.
“The right of every citizen, including attorneys, to publicly express opinions about the performance of public agencies and officials is a constitutional right that is vital to the success of our democracy.” –John M. Berry, Jr.
The history of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Legal Program is essentially a long list of brave clients that stepped forward in hopes of protecting and strengthening individual rights and equality across the commonwealth.
The ACLU-KY proudly represented Mr. John M. Berry, Jr., an attorney and former state senator, in a 2012 suit against the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA). The KBA had concluded that Mr. Berry violated a professional ethics rule by writing a letter criticizing the way in which the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission handled (and resolved) an inquiry into alleged fundraising irregularities by a legislator.
The ACLU-KY filed suit on Mr. Berry’s behalf asserting that the KBA’s authority to sanction attorneys in these circumstances violated his First Amendment free speech rights. A lower court dismissed the suit, but we appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where we secured a significant First Amendment victory. As a result the KBA was permanently barred from improperly enforcing the challenged rule against Mr. Berry in the future.
Mr. Berry described his experience working with the ACLU-KY in this way, “The ACLU has been, and continues to be, a great defender of [free speech rights] and renders a service for which we should all be grateful.”
The ACLU-KY is grateful for clients, like Mr. Berry, that muster their courage to stand up for what is right, benefiting all who call the commonwealth home.
Also representing Mr. Berry were ACLU cooperating attorneys David Tachau and Kate McKune of the Louisville law firm Tachau Meek PLC.