First Amendment

Bar membership remains mandatory, but top Neb. court restricts activities on which dues can be spent

Membership in the Nebraska State Bar Association will remain mandatory. But the state’s top court on Friday limited the manner in which the group can spend members’ dues.

In a partial victory for the state senator who brought the case, contending that his money was being spent on political activities, the Nebraska Supreme Court mandatory bar dues can only be spent on regulatory activities such as administering the bar exam and disciplining wayward attorneys, reports the World-Herald.

“We deny the petition to create a purely voluntary bar, but we determine that the rules creating and establishing the Bar Association should be amended in the light of developments in compelled-speech jurisprudence from the U.S. Supreme Court since integration of the Bar Association in 1937,” wrote the court in its opinion (PDF).

The bar’s lobbying activities can continue, but will be funded by separate dues from members who “opt in” to make the extra payment.

Currently, bar dues are $275 annually, plus another $60 that goes to the counsel for discipline, reports the Lincoln Journal Star.

The supreme court lowered annual dues to $38, plus the $60 assessment.

“It is more than I could have hoped for,” said State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, who is also an attorney and brought the case. “It protects the rights of those who are forced to be in the bar association and who do not agree with the bar’s activities as of late. I am thrilled with this result.”

A bar association spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Journal Star.

See also: “Oops. Former bar prez copies top court on email about its ‘ill-conceived and uninformed questions’ “

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