SCOTUS called for the removal of mandatory bar dues in two petitions

The sun sets over the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, USA on November 29, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis

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  • Lawyers say union fee ruling applies to bar associations
  • Cases target political activity of groups in Texas and Oklahoma
  • The court dismissed the Wisconsin case last year

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(Reuters) – Lawyers in Texas and Oklahoma are asking the United States Supreme Court to reconsider its 1990 ruling upholding requirements for lawyers to pay dues to state bars, saying mandatory dues unduly subsidize political discourse.

In two separate petitions filed with judges last week, attorneys for Jones Day, Consovoy McCarthy and the conservative Goldwater Institute, who represent the plaintiffs, urged the Supreme Court to extend its 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. This decision limited compulsory union dues in the public sector to dues collected by bars.

Last year, the Supreme Court declined to take on a similar challenge regarding mandatory bar fees in Wisconsin.

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At least 30 states require lawyers to join their bars and pay dues to practice. The Supreme Court, in Keller v. California State Bar in 1990 upheld these requirements, ruling that states have a compelling interest in regulating the legal profession.

The new petitions ask the court to reconsider the decisions of the 5th and 10th U.S. Courts of Appeal that Janus did not overturn Keller, even if that called into question the logic of the ruling.

Plaintiffs in both cases say their bar associations used mandatory dues to lobby on controversial issues that were not directly related to the legal profession.

The Oklahoma Bar Association, for example, has published articles criticizing campaign contributions by special interest groups, and the Texas State Bar Association has openly supported a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, according to the petitions.

The plaintiffs said that since Keller, bar groups have become more involved in politically charged issues such as immigration and criminal justice reform. But many of their members oppose the activity and should not be forced to subsidize it, they said.

The cases are Schell v. Oklahoma Supreme Court Justices, US Supreme Court, No. 21-779, and McDonald v. Firth, US Supreme Court, issue not available.

For Mark Schell: Anthony Dick of Jones Day; Jacob Huebert of the Goldwater Institute

For the Texas Plaintiffs: Jeffrey Harris of Consovoy McCarthy

For the Texas Bar: Thomas Leatherbury and Pat Mizell of Vinson & Elkins

For the Oklahoma Bar Association: Daniel Volchok of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr

Read more:

Janus does not block compulsory bar contributions – 10th Circuit

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