In re Petition for a Rule Change to Create a Voluntary State Bar of Nebraska

  • Feb 4, 2016“In our view, the best solution is to modify the court’s rules creating and establishing the Bar Association (and other related rules) to limit the use of mandatory dues, or assessments, to the regulation of the legal profession. This purpose clearly includes the functions of (1) admitting qualified applicants to membership in the Bar Association, (2) maintaining the records of membership, (3) enforcing the ethical rules governing the Bar Association’s members, (4) regulating the mandate of continuing legal education, (5) maintaining records of trust fund requirements for lawyers, and (6) pursuing those who engage in the unauthorized practice of law. The mandatory Supreme Court assessments supporting these functions will be paid to the Bar Association on behalf of the Nebraska Supreme Court in much the same way that the existing disciplinary assessment is administered.

“By limiting the use of mandatory assessments to the arena of regulation of the legal profession, we ensure that the Bar Association remains well within the limits of the compelled-speech jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court and avoid embroiling this court and the legal profession in unending quarrels and litigation over the germaneness of an activity in whole or in part, the constitutional adequacy of a particular opt-in or opt-out system, or the appropriateness of a given grievance procedure.

“The remaining activities of the Bar Association will be financed solely by revenues other than mandatory assessments. Obviously, voluntary dues would be a significant portion of those revenues. Voluntary bar dues fall outside the realm of the compelled-speech jurisprudence. Many members of the Bar Association may well elect to pay the voluntary dues assessment — particularly if the Bar Association strictly adheres to the use of such funds for purposes clearly benefiting the bar as a whole and avoids entanglement in ideological or political issues or legislation.”

Read the rest of the Opinion filed December 6, 2013. No. S-36-120001 here.