The United States Supreme Court signals possible First Amendment violation
The United States Supreme Court may be considering upending the system bar associations in about thirty states use to support themselves, mandatory bar dues paid to private associations. David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times reported on December 3 that the more conservative high court may have an appetite to address this issue. You can read the article here.
Bar associations in most states regulate the legal profession by licensing and disciplining lawyers. The LA Times article reports: “In a brief order on Monday, the court overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld mandatory bar dues in North Dakota and sent the case back ‘for further consideration in light of Janus.’”
Janus v. AFSCME is a 5-4 case from June where the Supreme Court struck down California law that required teachers and other public employees to pay fees to support unions.
The current case, Fleck v. Wetch, began when Arnold Fleck, a North Dakota lawyer, sued his state bar association after he learned it had contributed $50,000 to support a state ballot measure. When the 8th Circuit rejected his constitutional argument, the Goldwater Institute assisted him in filing an appeal.
The article quotes Justice Alito as calling it a “bedrock principle” that “no person in this country may be impelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
The lawsuit challenges private associations, not state agencies that regulate lawyers. We will always pay bar dues. We just may not pay them to a private bar association.