Lawyer who objected to mandatory bar's PAC contribution loses First Amendment appeal
A federal appeals court recently ruled against a North Dakota lawyer who alleged the mandatory state bar violated his First Amendment rights.
Arnold Fleck had claimed the bar should have given him the chance to affirmatively consent before using his money on activities that weren’t relevant to the practice of law. The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in an Aug. 17 opinion (PDF).
Fleck had objected because a portion of his mandatory dues went to a PAC that opposed a 2014 ballot initiative known as Measure 6, which would establish a presumption that each parent is entitled to equal parental rights. The measure was rejected by voters.
The state bar dues notice, which was revised as a result of Fleck’s lawsuit, says bar members can deduct a certain amount from their dues in a “Keller deduction” for activities that aren’t germane to law practice. The reference is to the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case Keller v. State Bar of California.
Keller held that mandatory bars can use members’ required dues to fund activities germane to regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services, but not to fund nongermane activities that a member opposes.
Fleck had argued the bar should have required him to opt in to use of his dues for nongermane activities, rather than requiring him to opt out. The 8th Circuit said the procedure satisfies Supreme Court precedent.