Monday, September 10, 2018

Oregon Bar Dues Challenged on First Amendment Grounds

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In Janus v. American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees in a 5 -4 vote the United States Supreme Court struck an Illinois law requiring public employees represented by an AFSCME local to pay "agency fees" to the union for its representation which protected the interests of all bargaining unit members.  The majority rejected that argument - holding that union advocacy on matters such as state budgets was political speech which the objecting members could not be compelled to "subsidize".

Now two Oregon lawyers are objecting to the fees charged by the Oregon State Bar to which they are obligated by statute to contribute.  In their complaint Diane Gruber and Mark Reynolds object to a statement by the State Bar denouncing "White nationalism".  I would vote for that statement every day if it were offered before the voluntary New Jersey State Bar Association of which I have been an active member for thirty years.  But the Oregon State Bar is not a voluntary organization for lawyers who want to practice in the State.  So though Gruber and Reynolds may have ideological views I find abominable, they do seem to have grounds for their complaint relying on Janus. - gwc


  1. A similar claim was successful in a case against the Puerto Rico Bar Association many years ago. The lawyers who brought the action complained that the PRBA was using the fees, which all lawyers in Puerto Rico were obligated to pay at the time, to pursue political and ideological projects they did not agree with. The case went up and down to the First Circuit many times and it took a decade to be fully decided but in the end the plaintiffs won. After the decision, PRBA members had to be given the opportunity to object to the use of fees and the PRBA had to devise a way to make sure those members' fees were not used to pursue projects to which they objected. The case was called Schneider v. Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico.

    1. Oh, and by the way, membership in the PRBA is not mandatory in order to practice law in Puerto Rico anymore.