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Why is the Louisiana Bar Punishing a First Amendment-Defending Attorney?

October 31, 2019

October 31, 2019
By Jacob Huebert

It’s a basic rule of the legal profession: A lawyer who represents a client doesn’t necessarily endorse the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views and can’t be held responsible for them. And in litigation, a lawyer must always pursue his or her client’s interests, regardless of his or her personal views.

You’d think the leaders of the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA), of all people, would understand these principles. But apparently they don’t—or they choose to selectively ignore them when someone threatens their power.

The LSBA recently took action against Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans who’s an expert in legal ethics. It cancelled two ethics presentations he’d long been scheduled to give, and it refused to reappoint him to an ethics committee he’d served on for twenty years.

Why? The LSBA says it’s because of unspecified “unforeseen conflicts.” But it appears that the real reason is because the LSBA doesn’t like a position Ciolino has taken on behalf of one of his clients. Together with attorneys from the Goldwater Institute and the Pelican Institute, Ciolino represents Louisiana attorney Randy Boudreaux in a lawsuit arguing that Louisiana’s rules requiring attorneys to join and pay dues to the LSBA as a condition of practicing law violate their First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was filed on August 1. Just days later, Ciolino was told that he was off the committee and that his presentations were cancelled.

That an organization charged with upholding high standards for the legal profession would retaliate against someone for representing a client—in a case seeking to protect First Amendment rights, no less—is outrageous. And it will do nothing to dispel the widely held notion that mandatory bar associations often put power and politics above their supposed purpose of helping to keep lawyers educated and ethical.

Read Ciolino’s full story on his Louisiana Legal Ethics blog.

Jacob Huebert is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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