Constitutional Law

Texas AG sides with lawyers challenging mandatory bar membership

  • Print.

Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed an amicus brief that sides with three lawyers who contend that mandatory membership in the State Bar of Texas violates their First Amendment right against coerced speech.

Paxton’s brief says lawyers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the state bar’s ideological and political activities through mandatory membership dues, the Texas Tribune reports.

The brief supports the three lawyers, who argue in a federal suit that the bar should not use mandatory dues to fund activities such as diversity initiatives, access to justice programs that help prevent deportations, and legislative drafting and advocacy.

Paxton cites Janus v. AFSCME, the 2018 Supreme Court decision that held public employees’ First Amendment rights are violated when mandatory union dues are used for collective bargaining.

Similar suits have been filed in Oregon, North Dakota and Oklahoma, but Paxton is the only state attorney general siding with the challengers, according to the Texas Tribune. The article calls Paxton’s stance “an unusual move given that his agency is tasked with defending Texas law.” Vinson & Elkins is representing the bar in the suit.

The Texas Tribune notes that one of the plaintiffs challenging the Texas law is general counsel for the conservative group Empower Texans. The group’s political action committee has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns by Paxton and his wife, a state senator, according to the article. Another plaintiff has donated thousands of dollars to the PAC.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.