The Supreme Court does not protect “divorcionetas”: it validates criticism for misleading advertising of services at 150 euros

A way of publicity that may remind some of the popular Saul Goodman, the ingenious lawyer in the series breaking bad and Better call Saul. Alberto García Cebrián gained some popularity at the end of 2020, when it began offering its family lawyer services with calls divorcenets who toured Spanish cities offering transportation services. divorce at 150 euros (per spouse, as noted in smaller print on the vehicles). “Together or apart, but happy,” was the motto of his firm.

His offer raised alarms within the Spanish Association of Family Lawyers, whose president, María Dolores Lozano, expressed her concern about this way of working in several forums, without making direct mention of García Cebrián, but warning that the publicity of provision of services at such a low price could induce potential clients to wrong conclusions about the real cost of services. The person responsible for the divorcenets sued it, but the Supreme Court, as the trial judge and the Provincial Court of Madrid said before, considers criticism is legitimate to this type of provision of professional services.

In April 2021, the lawyer sued the association and its president. He demanded that messages on social networks that he considered to be deleted be deleted. They attacked his honor and professional prestigeand that Lozano will compensate with 3,600 euros. In response to this demand, the association argued that its statements were informative, typical of its function, and that in addition They had never expressly referred to to this lawyer, even though he felt addressed. These were opinions that were limited to warning of the possible negative consequences of a certain type of advertising.

Right to criticize

He Court of First Instance number 104 of Madrid He agreed with the organization chaired by Lozano, and added that the appearance of the image of the lawyer García Cebrián in some media had not been the responsibility of the defendants. The demonstrations, furthermore, were framed in the right to criticism in a matter of general interest which was linked to the associative functions of the defendant entity.

The sentence handed down in January of last year by the Provincial Court of Madrid, where the lawyer went on appeal. The magistrates considered that the demonstrations were protected by the freedom of expression in relation to customer acquisition methods in matters of public interest and, consequently, subject to criticism, and which in no case referred to procedural practice or behavior far removed from deontological duties. The possible deceptive nature was unsightly of advertising used to attract those customers with mention at a very low price.

In its ruling, to which El Periódico de España, from the Prensa Ibérica group, has had access, the Supreme Court analyzes the conflict between freedom of expression and the right to honor in a context of criticism of certain professional practices. And he concludes that “the judgment of weighing the rights in conflict carried out by the contested ruling was correct and complies with jurisprudence“.

The resolution, of which the magistrate Pedro José Vela, emphasizes that what the Association said “is a concern about the supposed cheapening of the professional services of the lawyer in divorce proceedings that could cover up misleading advertising, while it could make potential clients believe that with a very low price (150 euros) they could afford a judicial process, without informing of possible complications and vicissitudes that would increase that cost.

In this case, the professional activity criticized was in the public domain, “precisely because of its advertising dissemination and its appearance in different media,” and because one of the elements used were vans that, with that advertisement, circulated through various cities. , “to the point that the neologism was coined divorcenets to identify them.” In addition to rejecting his claim, the high court imposes costs on the promoter of cheap divorces of process.

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