GATES: Could this be the end of the Louisiana State Bar Association?

The United State Supreme Court may be close to shutting down multiple state bar associations around the nation reports the Los Angeles Times.

But first, some background.  The faithful will recall that the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) is a mandatory trade group for all lawyers in Louisiana who MUST join the LSBA and pay an annual tithe of several hundred dollars.  For that investment, we get a magazine and a heartache.

The faithful will also recall that the LSBA, governed by its House of Delegates, has occasion to do dumb things, like not supporting the First Amendment and urging the repeal of the First Amendment, said occasions coinciding with just about every time they meet.  It seems like the LSBA train has long left the tracks and the LSBA, oblivious to all of the warning signs, keeps chugging on.

During debate on the First Amendment issues noted above, some enlightened members of the House of Delegates warned other members that doing dumb things like those mentioned above will one day lead to the destruction of the LSBA.  The thinking has been that eventually lawyers in Louisiana will not be forced to join the LSBA, and those of us who feel like the LSBA has long ago abandoned our values will jump ship faster than John Bel jumps on a tax hike.

In my article covering the fiasco, I wrote that it was time the LSBA cease to be mandatory:

The shameful part is that the LSBA is a mandatory organization. Lawyers in Louisiana don’t have a choice: they have to join. And they have to pay these people money each year so they can have meetings in Sandestin to vote against the First Amendment. It appears to be high time that change. When the governing body of lawyers can’t even support a section dealing with the First Amendment, it ceases to be a legitimate representative of those lawyers.

Que the U.S. Supreme Court. (And no, I’m not suggesting the US Supreme Court takes its lead from a country lawyer in Winnfield.)  In June of this year the High Court struck down a California law which had required teachers to join a union.  In an opinion by Justice Alito, the court wrote, “no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”

Lawyers took that ruling and applied it to the idea that some lawyers are forced to join state bar associations which may promulgate speech the lawyer disagrees with.  After all, if teachers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize speech they disagree with through mandatory contributions to a union, why should lawyers?

It looks like the U.S. Supreme Court may agree.  From the LA Times article:

In June, Alito spoke for a 5-4 majority that struck down state laws in California and elsewhere that required teachers and other public employees to pay fees to support a union. In Janus vs. AFSCME, the court said that requirement violated the free-speech rights of employees who did not support the union.

That case proved helpful to lawyers challenging mandatory bar association fees based on the same principle. 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.”

What does this mean for the Louisiana state bar?  It means that once all of the dust settles the LSBA could be a voluntary lawyer organization instead of a mandatory one.  And that mean a LOT less members and influence.  It also means that you would likely see a rise in voluntary attorney organizations like the Federalist Society and various Christian attorney groups.  And that’s a good thing.

If the LSBA is smart, it will begin an active campaign to be as non-controversial as possible.  Otherwise, the end may be near.

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