USA: SCOTUS asked to nix mandatory bar association dues in two petitions

  • Lawyers say ruling on union fees applies to bar associations
  • Cases target political activity by Texas, Oklahoma groups
  • Court turned away Wisconsin case last year

Lawyers in Texas and Oklahoma are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 1990 decision upholding requirements that lawyers pay dues to state bar associations, saying compulsory dues improperly subsidize political speech.

In two separate petitions filed with the justices last week, lawyers from 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. That decision limited mandatory public-sector union fees to dues charged by bar associations.

The Supreme Court last year declined to take up a similar challenge to mandatory bar dues in Wisconsin.

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

The new petitions ask the court to review rulings from the 5th and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals that said Janus did not overrule Keller, even if it did call the logic behind the ruling into question.

The plaintiffs in both cases claim their bar associations used compulsory dues to lobby on controversial issues that were not directly related to the legal profession.