Political Speech

Louisiana Attorney Sues Over Mandatory State Bar Association Dues

Scales of Justice
Emblem of Justice. May 5, 2012. Mbiama/Wikicommons.

Louisiana lawyer Randy Boudreaux has filed suit against the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) and the state’s Supreme Court for violating his and other lawyers right to free speech and free association. 

“The collection of mandatory bar dues to subsidize political and ideological speech without attorney’s affirmative consent violates their First Amendment right to choose what private speech they will and will not support,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit cites the June 2018 Supreme Court decision, Janus v. AFSCME, which concluded that forcing public employees to subsidize a union “violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize speech on matters of substantial concern.” 

While labor unions and bar associations are not perfectly comparable, both require individuals to join and pay dues, and some of the money is used for lobbying and other forms of political activity and speech. 

Not all state bar associations have mandatory fees. According to the Los Angeles Times, 19 states including New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania do not require lawyers to join state bar associations in order to practice law. 

Boudreaux is backed by the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank. According to Bloomberg Law, the center filed a similar challenge in Oklahoma in March, and in 2018, convinced the Supreme Court to take up a mandatory state bar dues case in North Dakota.

Bloomberg Complaint