Bar Associations

Puerto Rican Bar President Jailed After Violating Gag Order in Suit Seeking Dues Refunds

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Puerto Rican lawyers are organizing vigils and holding press conferences to show support for their embattled bar president, jailed after refusing to pay a fine for violating a gag order in a class action against the bar association.

Bar president Osvaldo Toledo was held in contempt after he held a news conference last week, telling lawyers they could opt out of the class and warning that the bar’s headquarters might have to be sold to pay the judgment, Caribbean Business reports. He refused to pay a $10,000 fine by Thursday’s deadline and turned himself in.

The bar association is not planning to pay the fine, sources told Caribbean Business. On Saturday, the Puerto Rico bar’s governing board approved a manifesto expressing its solidarity with Toledo for his “act of bravery and honor,” Caribbean Business reports in a separate story. Publicly, bar officials declined to discuss their next move, saying they are also bound by the gag order.

The class action suit challenged the bar’s use of compulsory dues to buy life insurance policies for all members of the bar. Last year the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld an injunction barring the use of dues for the insurance program, but overturned a $4 million damages judgment, according to Caribbean Business. The appeals court said lawyers can opt out of the class, and the lower court on remand can reduce the judgment accordingly.

Membership in the bar is no longer compulsory.

Groups of lawyers have organized vigils at the prison where Toledo has been jailed. On Sunday, a group of lawyer lawmakers who are members of the Popular Democratic Party held a press conference to announce they are opting out of the class action, Caribbean Business reports in its latest story on the controversy.

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