Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
Press Release

WILL Sues to End Mandatory State Bar Membership, Dues

First Amendment protects speech, association rights of attorneys

By - Jun 17th, 2019 07:30 am

The News: On behalf of Wisconsin attorneys Adam Jarchow and Michael Dean, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and attorneys from the law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP have sued the State Bar of Wisconsin and some of its officers for violating the First Amendment. The suit claims Wisconsin attorneys have the First Amendment right to practice freely without joining or paying membership dues to the State Bar of Wisconsin.

The Background: In 2018, the United State Supreme Court affirmed in Janus v. AFSCME the right to freedom of speech and association includes the right to decline to speak and to decline to associate. But to practice law in Wisconsin, attorneys must join and pay membership dues to the state bar association, the State Bar of Wisconsin. The state bar then uses this money to fund speech on a variety of matters of public interest ranging from the Second Amendment to statements by President Trump.

WILL’s clients disagree with the state bar’s speech, object to being associated with the state bar, and are seeking relief under the First Amendment. In Janus the Court ruled that forcing public employees to pay dues to a union over the employees’ objections violated their First Amendment rights. In this case, forcing attorneys to associate with the state bar and subsidize the bar’s speech activities violates the attorneys’ rights.

18 states successfully regulate the legal profession without forcing attorneys to join and subsidize a bar association. Wisconsin should join these states and protect the First Amendment rights of its citizen attorneys.

The Quote: Adam Jarchow, WILL client and former state representative said, “Nobody should be required to subsidize or join a group in order to earn a living. I, and thousands of other lawyers, detest the policy and political positions taken by the state bar. Yet, if we want to practice our trade as attorneys, we are required to associate with, and subsidize, the bar. Simply put – it’s unconstitutional and I look forward to vindicating our rights!”

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