Why I support state bar reform in Arizona.

  • Mar 1, 2018
  • Bar bifurcation, First Amendment Freedoms, State Bar of Arizona, Voluntary Bar Legislation, Voluntary Bars

My name is David Euchner. In January, I testified at the Arizona Legislature’s House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee in support of House Bill 2119, a bill that would bifurcate the State Bar of Arizona into a regulatory arm of the Supreme Court that is mandatory and a trade association that is voluntary. I am a past president of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ), the state affiliate for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and I have also been a member of a State Bar committee (Criminal Jury Instructions) for 8 years. I am NOT an opponent of the State Bar. If HB 2119 becomes law, and I am given a choice whether to join the trade association, I will likely maintain that membership because of the value I find in it.

That being said, I deserve to have that choice. My freedom to work in my chosen profession may be dependent on maintaining a license to practice, but it must not be dependent on my membership in a trade association.

This week the United States Supreme Court held oral argument in a case involving mandatory union dues for public employees, and it is all but certain that the votes are there to strike down mandatory association as violative of the First Amendment. This case will have ripple effects that may render mandatory bar associations such as Arizona’s unconstitutional as well. But in addition to the First Amendment, under the Arizona Constitution this is a Right to Work state.

Arguments that mandatory bar membership is needed to ensure that lawyers are adequately trained are specious. First, the continuing education requirement and enforcement of the ethical rules requiring lawyers only take cases that they are qualified to handle fall within the regulatory sphere, and thus would be unaffected by this legislation. Second, the medical profession has managed to have its professional associations be separate from government, and those professionals literally make life-or-death decisions. Third, other trade associations, such as AACJ for criminal defense lawyers, APAAC for prosecutors, ATLA, AILA, etc., as well as county bar associations, provide the same services without the power of government behind them.

Finally, this is hardly a revolutionary concept. Barely half the states have a mandatory bar, and that number is decreasing.

I urge this bill be passed through the House so it can make its way to the Senate, and hopefully to the Governor’s desk.