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The Buckeye Institute: Forcing Lawyers to Join State-Sponsored Bar Associations Violates First Amendment

Feb 05, 2020

Columbus, OH – On Monday, The Buckeye Institute filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin, which calls on the court to recognize the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association by ending laws that force lawyers to join state-sponsored bar associations that engage in lobbying on inherently political and ideological issues in order to practice their profession.

“Forcing attorneys to pay bar dues that support inherently political speech in order to lawfully practice violates the attorneys’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute. “When ‘integrated bar associations’—bars that don’t just regulate the practice of law, but also engage in advocacy—speak on matters of public concern, they are engaging in inherently political speech. History has shown that the Supreme Court’s attempt to delineate between activities germane to improving legal services and ‘activities of an ideological nature’ does not work. Speech about improving legal services is inherently political and touches on issues about which people can and do disagree.”

Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin—which was brought by Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty—challenges Wisconsin’s integrated bar system that requires attorneys to become members of the state-sponsored bar association which engages in political speech and lobbying in order to practice law in Wisconsin. In its Janus ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court established that the state cannot force people to join or pay fees to an organization that is inherently political as a condition of their employment.

Wisconsin is one of 32 states that force lawyers to join state-sponsored bar associations that engage in advocacy on matters of public concern in order to practice law.

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