Monday, December 23, 2019

Wisconsin: mandatory bar membership is not unconstitutional

Long time readers of this blog might remember that I have been following the many lawsuits filed around the country alleging that mandatory membership to state bar associations is unconstitutional. 

Today I am here to report that we now have a decision on the subject.  About two seeks ago, the State Bar of Wisconsin won dismissal of a suit alleging its requirement that attorneys pay bar dues to practice in the state unconstitutionally compels them to participate in the state bar’s advocacy.  The case is called Jarchow v. State Bar of Wis. and you can read it here.

Rather than address the issues head on, however, the court held that U.S. Supreme Court precedent requires dismissal of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment challenge. It cited a 1990 opinion in which the high court upheld similar requirements imposed by the California bar against free speech and free association challenges.  The trial court said it’s bound by the 1990 decision, and only the Supreme Court can say otherwise. “Plaintiffs must seek relief in a higher court,” it said.

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