The State Bar of Texas Wins Mandatory Dues Case
On May 29, 2020, Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas dismissed a suit brought against the State Bar of Texas alleging that the state’s requirement for attorneys to pay dues to the state bar as a condition of practicing law in the state violated their First Amendment rights.
V&E presented oral arguments on behalf of the State Bar of Texas on August 1, 2019, seeking summary judgment on grounds that the Bar’s use of dues complies with past U.S. Supreme Court precedent governing mandatory bar associations and serves to regulate the legal profession and improve the quality of legal services.
In an 18-page opinion, Judge Yeakel sided with V&E’s arguments, stating that, “because the Bar has adequate procedural safeguards in place to protect against compelled speech and because mandatory Bar membership and compulsory fees do not otherwise violate the First Amendment, Plaintiffs’ claim that the Bar unconstitutionally coerces them into funding allegedly non-chargeable activities without a meaningful opportunity to object necessarily fails as a matter of law.”
The suit began in March 2019 when three Texas lawyers sued the State Bar of Texas, arguing that organizations that collect compelled dues must adopt procedures under which members opt in to supporting political and ideological causes beyond the organization’s regulatory functions.
This is one of at least six “mandatory bar” challenges that have been filed in states around the country, fueled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which held that public sector non-union workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment.
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