One of the most debated issues in the Professional Responsibility arena in the past year has been whether states can force lawyers to join a bar association, or, in other words, whether it is a violation of a lawyer's constitutional rights to be forced to become a member of a bar association as a pre-requisite to practice law in the jurisdiction. I have been posting updates on cases from around the nation on this for over a year. See here, and scroll down for all the stories (from Texas, Michigan, Oregon and Utah, among others).
Today I am writing with an update related to the rules in Wisconsin.
The Seventh Circuit recently upheld a ruling against an attorney challenging rules enforced by the Wisconsin Supreme Court requiring all lawyers licensed to practice in the state to be members and pay dues to the state bar.
The opinion of the court starts with a summary, as follows:
Under rules adopted and enforced by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, all lawyers licensed to practice in the state must be members of and pay dues to the State Bar of Wisconsin, a professional association created by the court. Attorney Schuyler File contends that requiring him to join and subsidize the State Bar violates his free speech and associational rights under the First Amendment. Recognizing that Supreme Court precedent forecloses this claim, see Keller v. State Bar of Cal., 496 U.S. 1 (1990), File maintains that the Court’s more recent cases—particularly Janus v. American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018)—implicitly overruled Keller.
The district court rejected this argument, and properly so. Keller may be difficult to square with the Supreme Court’s more recent First Amendment caselaw, but on multiple occasions and in no uncertain terms, the Court has instructed lower courts to resist invitations to find its decisions overruled by implication. Keller is binding. We affirm.
You can read the full opinion here.