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Attorney: If tigers are OK for ads, hawks should be too

September 30, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina attorney said he’s being unfairly targeted by legal regulators for employing a screeching hawk as his mascot on local TV advertisements.

John Hawkins, founder of Hawk Law, said the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel is singling him out by threatening to sanction him for his ads, which the watchdog group has called objectionable to the legal community, according to The Post and Courier.

The ads in question feature a hawk and actors flapping their arms in hawk-like mannerisms to promote their personal-injury case settlements.

In court documents filed in federal court on Tuesday, Hawkins said the disciplinary counsel allows Texas-based Kirkendall Dwyer LLP to use a tiger as a mascot for its national “Law Tigers” network of motorcycle accident attorneys. Hawkins said the counsel reached a “secret settlement” with the Law Tigers when the firm pushed back against attempts to stop its ads. Hawkins is seeking documents from that settlement to back up his defense.

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“If ODC has reached an agreement that allows Kirkendall Dwyer to use its Law Tigers brand that includes pictures, depictions and recordings of tigers, it cannot constitutionally investigate and prosecute John Hawkins for using pictures, depictions and recordings of hawks in his advertising,” Hawkins said in a court filing. “After all, a 400-plus pound animal that is known to maul, attack and eat people implies a greater ability ‘to obtain results’ than does a three-pound bird that eats mice, squirrels and other small animals.”

The ODC did not respond to requests for comment from the Post and Courier but denied any wrongdoing in court filings.

Hawkins is a former state legislator who represented Spartanburg County in South Carolina’s House of Representatives and Senate for a combined 13 years. A rival lawyer filed a complaint with the ODC about the advertisements in 2017 and then two more followed – one from a former Hawk Law associate and one by another competitor.

The ODC filed formal charges against Hawkins this year, threatening sanctions as severe as disbarment. That’s when Hawkins filed his lawsuit, contending constitutional violations. Kirkendall Dwyer also filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the ODC which was then settled and dismissed in December 2020, although the terms were kept private.

Hawkins has vowed to continue the fight with two of the formal charges still pending.

Hawk Law has four South Carolina offices, in Columbia, Greenville, Moore and North Charleston. Kirkendall Dwyer has no physical locations in the state, according to its website.