Bar Associations

7th Circuit upholds Wisconsin’s mandatory bar, says precedent applies until Supreme Court overrules it

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The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago ruled Friday that Wisconsin’s mandatory bar doesn’t violate the First Amendment rights of the state’s lawyers.

The appeals court turned down a challenge by Wisconsin lawyer Schuyler File, who argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had implicitly overruled its 1990 decision upholding mandatory bar membership, Keller v. State Bar of California.

Keller had held that compulsory state bars can use lawyer dues to fund activities to regulate the legal profession and improve the quality of legal services but not for unrelated political or ideological activities.

Bloomberg Law and Reuters have coverage, while How Appealing links to the 7th Circuit’s April 29 decision.

Keller remains binding precedent, the 7th Circuit said, despite tensions between the decision and the June 2018 decision Janus v. AFSCME. In Janus, the Supreme Court held that mandatory union dues for collective bargaining violate public employees’ free speech rights under the First Amendment.

“The foundations of Keller have been shaken,” the 7th Circuit said. “But it’s not our role to decide whether it remains good law. Only the Supreme Court can answer that question.”

Four other federal appeals courts have also rejected claims that Janus overruled Keller. At least 30 states have mandatory bars, according to Reuters.

The Supreme Court had declined to hear challenges to mandatory state bar associations in three other cases April 5. The lawyer representing File, Daniel Suhr of the Liberty Justice Center, said he will seek Supreme Court review in the Wisconsin case, Reuters reported.

The case is File v. Martin.

See also: “Lawsuit to claw back union dues filed after Janus decision” “8th Circuit rejects lawyer’s challenge to mandatory bar dues”

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