Goldwater Institute Sues: State Bars are Unconstitutional Mandatory Unions

constitutional right to workState bars are acquiring a chilling reputation for misusing the dues of attorneys forced to join them, including using those dues to target conservative attorneys. Right-leaning attorneys are frequently disbarred and disciplined for actions completely unrelated to the practice of law, a gross overreach of power. Oddly, even though there is no realistic difference between state bars and unions, the former still exist in a mandatory capacity in over half the states – including right-to-work states.

Loaded with money confiscated from mandatory dues, these powerful unions are constantly expanding their reach and authority through political activism and lobbying. Controlled by Democrats, the money always goes to promote left-wing causes. Although the Arizona State Bar already had the third highest bar dues in the country, last year its board of governors voted to increase dues by another 13 percent, to $520 annually by 2019 – which doesn’t even include the cost of 15 hours of mandatory continuing legal education. Inactive attorneys are charged $265 annually, the highest in the nation and more than some active attorneys in other states.

Political activity by mandatory bars is illegal and violates the U.S. Constitution. In the 1990 Supreme Court case Keller v. State Bar of California, the court held that attorneys who are required to be members of a state bar have a First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing the organization’s political activities. Incredibly, state bars have ignored the Keller decision, no doubt because not only do they have virtually unlimited resources at their disposal with members’ dues money to fight any challenges, but what attorneys dare to sue the bar that controls their fate as an attorney?

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