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Vinson & Elkins Wins Motion to Dismiss for State Bar of Texas in Follow-On Case to Mandatory Bar Challenge Suit

This week, a Vinson & Elkins team won a motion to dismiss for the State Bar of Texas in the Southern District of Texas in Bennett v. State Bar of Texas, a follow-on case related to our representation of the State Bar in the First Amendment mandatory bar challenge which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear earlier this year.

On August 30, 2021, three attorneys brought a proposed class action suit against the State Bar, claiming the Bar should reimburse members up to $60 million in dues following the Fifth Circuit ruling in McDonald v. Longley (the bar challenge suit) that enjoined it from collecting certain dues on constitutional grounds. In that appeal, the Fifth Circuit panel rejected Plaintiffs’ challenges to the constitutionality of the mandatory Bar and to the vast majority of the Bar’s activities, including diversity initiatives, CLE and annual meeting programming, and access to justice initiatives. The panel found that only a portion of the Bar’s and the Access to Justice Commission’s legislative activities were non-germane to the goals of regulating the profession and improving the quality of legal services. The panel further found that the Bar’s procedures for lodging objections to Bar expenditures were inadequate. In light of the Panel’s decision, the State Bar adopted certain new policies and the Texas Supreme Court amended certain State Bar Rules before the McDonald court entered final judgment on remand from the Fifth Circuit.

In the follow-on case, we argued that, as a government agency, the Bar qualifies for sovereign immunity. The Court had no subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims.

The V&E team was led by Tom Leatherbury and Pat Mizell and included former counsel Josh Johnson and former associate Morgan Kelley. Brooke Noble and Ryan Sun recently joined the team representing the State Bar of Texas.

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