North Dakota Bar's Family Law Task Force and the propensity of mandatory bars to tread on lawyer First Amendment rights.

  • Apr 28, 2016
  • First Amendment Freedoms, Litigation, State Bar of Arizona, Voluntary Bar Legislation, Voluntary Bars

Right now, the State Bar of Arizona can spend attorneys’ mandatory dues on anything it wants to so long as the expenditure is related to improving the practice of law through the regulation of attorneys.  That could mean lobbying, advertising campaigns, conventions, publications, offices and who knows what else.  The Bar reads this permission so broadly, you can drive a dump truck through it.

If HB 2221 passes, the State Bar would only be able to force lawyers to pay attorney regulation and nothing more. Drawing this clear line is crucial to protecting attorneys’ free speech rights.  Arnold Fleck, a North Dakota attorney, has learned this firsthand with his experiences with the North Dakota Bar.  In 2014, he discovered that the North Dakota Bar used nearly $50,000.00 in mandatory bar dues to oppose a shared parenting measure he supported.  Even after he filed a federal lawsuit and the North Dakota Bar revised its policies as a result, he discovered the North Dakota Bar was going to fund a “family law task force” that would propose legislative changes related to shared parenting.  He objected to the use of his dues to fund the task force and his objection went to mediation.  Mediator Karen Klein agreed that his dues could not be used to propose legislation but found his objection was premature because the task force had not yet spent money to that end. “The parameters of the activities the task force will perform are unclear,” she stated in her decision. As a result, Mr. Fleck must stay vigilant just so his dues are not used to fund causes he plainly opposes.

While stating that Mr. Fleck’s focus only on “improving the practice of law through regulation of the profession” was “too narrow,” it’s noteworthy the mediator also said, “I cannot find that all potential activities of the task force are germane under Keller.” Read the entire mediation ruling here.

Attorneys should not be have to constantly police their bar to make sure their free speech rights are not being violated.  HB 2221 solves that problem but forbidding the Bar from using mandatory dues for anything other than regulation. Arizona attorneys should not have to worry about what the Bar is doing with their money.