Monday, July 12, 2021

Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit finds that mandatory bar system used in Texas is 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.  For my posts on this topic go here.

Today I am writing to report that the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently invalidated the mandatory bar system used in Texas finding that because the State Bar of Texas engages in political activities that fall outside the scope of the interests of all its members, it cannot force attorneys to join it and pay mandatory dues.  But the court also provides some options to remedy the problem.  As the court explains:

In sum, the Bar is engaged in non-germane activities, so compelling the plaintiffs to join it violates their First Amendment rights. There are multiple other constitutional options: The Bar can cease engaging in nongermane activities; Texas can directly regulate the legal profession and create a voluntary bar association, like New York’s; or Texas can adopt a hybrid system, like California’s. But it may not continue mandating membership in the Bar as currently structured or engaging in its current activities.

The case is called Mcdonald v.  Longley and you can read the opinion here.  

Courthouse News Service has more information here.  The Louisiana Legal Ethics Blog has commentary and a link to the opinion here.

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