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Ending Mandatory Bar Association Fees in the Lone Star State

McDonald v. Longley

Case Status

Date Filed

April 26, 2019

Last Step

Filed amicus brief in trial court.

Next Step

Awaiting decision.

Case Overview

In Texas, lawyers are required to join the Texas State Bar, an organization that doesn’t just regulate the practice of law, but which also engages in many activities other than regulating. As in Oregon, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and other states, the state bar is a trade organization that engages in political and ideological activities over that go far beyond the state’s proper role, which is ensuring that lawyers are qualified and that they follow the law. But forcing people to join an organization that engages in these ideological activities violates their First Amendment rights. That’s why we’ve filed lawsuits in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Oregon on behalf of lawyers who don’t want to be forced to fund these organizations—and asked regulators in Arizona and Texas urging them to redesign their state bars to respect the rights of attorneys who don’t believe they should be forced to join.

In the latest lawsuit, attorneys in Texas are challenging that state’s mandatory bar, arguing that the compulsory membership and funding rules contradict the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME. They argue that the state bar’s ideological activities include things they disagree with, and that they shouldn’t be forced by the state to subsidize those activities. Any group has the right to express its opinions, of course—but it has no right to take money from those who disagree with them to help fund their efforts. They should ask, instead—invite people to join and pay voluntarily, the way all other trade organizations do.

We filed a friend of the court brief in the case to explain that even putting aside the ideological activities the bar engages in, forcing people to join an organization is itself a violation of individual rights. The freedom of association often overlaps with freedom of expression, but it’s different because it’s part of the right to privacy. So even if an organization engages in no ideological activism, it still has no right to force people to join.

Case Documents

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