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Lawsuit: Forced bar association dues are unconstitutional

August 2, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawsuit filed against Louisiana’s Supreme Court and the Louisiana State Bar Association says attorneys in the state are unconstitutionally forced to join the association and pay dues.

New Orleans attorney Randy Boudreaux filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court. It says the mandatory bar association membership violates attorneys’ freedom of speech and association rights.

“We are in full compliance with the law and deny the allegations,” the bar association said in a brief statement in response to the suit. The Louisiana Supreme Court said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit says the bar association sometimes takes positions on various issues that some attorneys disagree with. Examples cited in the lawsuit include past support for a moratorium on the death penalty and a resolution supporting elimination of a “free enterprise” course requirement for high school students.

And it says bar association members have no way to avoid having dues used to subsidize the association’s “political and ideological speech.”

Although the association’s bylaws state that its purpose is to regulate the practice of law, the lawsuit says the bar association functions more as a trade or interest group. And it notes that the Supreme Court, as the body that oversees the judicial branch of government, has established a state disciplinary board to regulate attorneys.

Boudreaux is represented by attorney and law professor Dane Ciolino and by attorneys for two conservative policy groups, the Goldwater Institute and the Pelican Institute. In a news release Thursday, the groups said similar cases are being pursued in other states.

The lawsuit and the news release both take note of the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.

The Louisiana State Bar Association did not immediately return a Friday morning request for comment. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk.

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