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Archive for the ‘Your friendly state bar.’ Category

Right now, the State Bar of Arizona can spend attorneys’ mandatory dues on anything it wants to so long as the expenditure is related to improving the practice of law through the regulation of attorneys.  By its own interpretation, that could mean lobbying, conventions, financial contributions to special interest bar associations, office buildings, and who knows what else.  The Bar reads this permission so broadly, you can drive a dump truck through it.

Meantime, down at the Arizona Legislature, after almost 4 weeks, final votes are still pending on about 200 bills, including two measures concerning the State Bar of Arizona. All bills, though, are on hold, including the state bar bills. This is because at the beginning of April, Arizona’s governor set a legislative priority on the state budget. Governor Doug Ducey imposed a bill-signing moratorium to stop any more bills from hitting his desk until a state spending plan was finalized. The end of the month has come but budget negotiations continue.

The key state bar legislation this session is HB 2221. If it passes, the State Bar of Arizona would only be able to force lawyers to pay for attorney regulation and nothing more. Drawing this clear line is crucial to protecting attorneys’ free speech rights. But since the Arizona Bar much prefers the free-spending non-transparent status quo, it has done everything in its power to stop the historic legislation.

To underscore how important the line of demarcation is between free speech and the use of compulsory dues, look no further than the case of North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck. With his experiences with the North Dakota Bar, Mr. Fleck has learned firsthand how easily mandatory bars can tread on attorney First Amendment rights.  In 2014, he discovered that the North Dakota Bar used nearly $50,000.00 in mandatory bar dues to oppose a shared parenting measure he supported.

Even after he filed a federal lawsuit and the North Dakota Bar consequently revised its policies, he discovered the North Dakota Bar was going to fund a “family law task force” that would propose legislative changes related to shared parenting.  He objected to the use of his dues to fund the task force and his objection went to mediation.  Mediator Karen Klein agreed that his dues could not be used to propose legislation but found his objection was premature because the task force had not yet spent money to that end. “The parameters of the activities the task force will perform are unclear,” she noted in her decision. As a result, Mr. Fleck must stay vigilant just so his dues are not used to fund causes he plainly opposes.

While stating that Mr. Fleck’s focus only on “improving the practice of law through regulation of the profession” was “too narrow,” it’s noteworthy the mediator also said, “I cannot find that all potential activities of the task force are germane under Keller.” Read the entire mediation ruling here.

As the mediator explained the holding in Keller v. State Bar of California, “The U.S. Supreme Court held that when a member of California’s integrated bar objects to his or her dues being used for particular expenditure, the bar may not charge that member dues for those expenditures unless “the challenged expenditures are necessarily or reasonably incurred  for the purpose of regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of the legal services available to the State.”

In sum, attorneys should not be have to constantly police their bar to make sure their free speech rights are not being violated. In Arizona, HB 2221 would solve that problem by forbidding the Bar from using mandatory dues for anything other than regulation. Arizona attorneys should not have to worry about what the Bar is doing with their money. And neither should North Dakota’s Arnold Fleck.

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Such a Clown! | by *~Dawn~*

Talk about questionable timing. Within days of the coming vote by Arizona’s Senate on a Bill that protects attorney free speech by requiring mandatory State Bar of Arizona dues be used only for attorney regulation, comes a blast email from that Bar’s President soliciting participation in an online attorney compensation survey. “Our hope,” says the email, “is to learn more about the current economic climate so we can better understand and report on trends in the profession, and in turn, serve you better.”

Serve you better? Multiple unwarranted fee hikes later, one of the most imperious and expensive state bars in the country now asks? It’s a bit late to open that stable door after the horse has been sold for glue.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1c/1811_PoorAuthor_RichBookseller_byWashingtonAllston_MFABoston.jpeg/433px-1811_PoorAuthor_RichBookseller_byWashingtonAllston_MFABoston.jpegBut then that’s the Arizona Bar’s age-old leadership problem. It’s tone-deaf, insular, and bureaucratically backward. And at the risk of piling on, did I also say bloated, inefficient and nontransparent?

The State Bar of Arizona’s real predicament is that while purporting to serve its members — it also tells the public it polices them. Such too, is the member confusion when their regulator claims to want to better serve them. The Arizona Bar simply can’t reconcile the irreconcilable: the inherent conflict of interest of supposedly protecting and serving the public by regulating Arizona’s lawyers while — at the same time — serving as a trade association promoting the common interests of those lawyers.

Meantime, the Bar’s pending legislation worries have everything to do with self-interest. The loss of control over 100% of the mandatory fees paid by Arizona’s lawyers means an unwelcome paradigm shift.

HB 2221 would authorize the Bar to only collect voluntary membership dues for non-regulatory operations. This means that instead of relying on coercion for its funding, a voluntary Arizona Bar would have to attract members who are willing to pay for its services. To its dismay, the Bar would be forced to be competitive. It might need to truly trim overhead and lower its costs.

photoAs for its survey, it appears the Bar anticipates sparse participation. Otherwise, why deign to offer dubious incentives to take its online survey? Participants will be entered into a drawing for a chance to be one of three ‘winners’ of free registration to the Arizona Bar’s Annual “Butt-Numb-A-Thon” Convention“a value of $455 each.” Two additional winners will be selected to receive a $100 Visa gift card.

Besides fees paid to the vendor, the prize incentives mean the survey has an additional cost to members of $1565. The easiest money to spend is always somebody else’s.

It’s also unclear from the Bar’s email if this questionnaire replaces the triennial “Economics of Law Practice in Arizona” survey, which was last done in 2013. Three years ago, the median reported salary for an Arizona sole practitioner with an outside office was $100,000 while the home office solo median was $75,000. (By comparison, if you rely on the puny survey sampling in the Nevada Bar’s Young Lawyer Section Compensation Survey released this month, the median base salary of Nevada young lawyers was $90,000-100,000. The Nevada Young Lawyer survey was based on “160 voluntary respondents” or roughly 2% of the state’s total lawyer population).

In the past,the Arizona Bar has charged members $125 for its complete economics of law practice report. See It’s unknown if the complete results of this current survey will also be sold. For more about legal profession economics, see “How about a raise?”

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Photo Credits: “Such a Clown” by Dawn Ellner at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License; “The Poor Author and the Rich Bookseller” by Washington Allston, Wikimedia Commons, public domain;“Riveting meeting,” by Mark Hillary at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.

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Business 1381How fitting that following an almost hour debate, the very last bill that passed out of the Arizona House at 5 o’clock last Thursday was historic legislation to protect the free speech rights of Arizona attorneys. HB 2221 passed 31-29. Among other provisions, the bill requires that mandatory dues collected by the State Bar of Arizona be used only for regulatory functions and not for nonregulatory activities like it does now. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Attorneys in Arizona must currently belong to a trade association and pay mandatory membership dues as preconditions to earning a living in their chosen profession. Arizona attorneys are the only Arizona professionals bound by such an expedient. What makes this problematic is that the State Bar uses compulsory member dues to not only regulate the practice of law — but to engage in other activities such as lobbying and advocating for ideological and political causes that not all members agree with.

Artists 93The Bar says it “focuses on protecting the public by enhancing the profession, not politics.” In reality, the Bar has an odd way of showing it’s apolitical. Pay no attention, for example, to Bar executives and its lobbyist fighting legislation to eliminate the Bar’s inherent conflict of interest manifest in the claim to protect the public from lawyers while contemporaneously serving lawyer interests.

Last year despite the Bar’s steadfast ongoing opposition to voluntary bar legislation, Bar CEO John Phelps told the ABA’s Bar Leader Magazine, “If we can’t answer the questions about why a mandatory bar is a better model for folks in Arizona, then we ought not to be a required bar.”

The Bar’s resistance has everything to do with preserving a model that protects its bureaucratic self-regard. The loss of most of its mandatory dues monies would mean a sea change for its blithesome bureaucrats.

State Bar’s Free Speech.

Politicians 81Besides reaffirming state supreme court authority over lawyer regulation under the Arizona Constitution, HB 2221 also respects the State Bar’s free speech rights. It does not restrict the Bar’s ability to lobby or take political or ideological positions so long as those activities are voluntarily funded by attorneys. This provision is key because the bar is again distorting facts to serve naked self-interest.

Under Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990), the State Bar cannot compel attorneys to fund the Bar’s lobbying activities unrelated to regulating the practice of law. But nothing in Keller prevents the State Bar from collecting voluntary funds from attorneys to engage in any political activity that it wants. Just because the State Bar presently has a policy that it will not engage in political activities beyond those authorized in Keller, there is nothing to stop the Bar from changing that policy tomorrow. As a result, HB 2221 has no bearing on whether or not the State Bar will expand the array of political activities it chooses to engage in with voluntary funds.

Chutzpah redefined.

Game Show Hosts 9And in what can best be characterized as redefining that classic definition of Chutzpah, the Bar has begun audaciously arguing that a vote against HB 2221 would protect attorneys’ First Amendment rights! Why? Because Bar members are supposedly currently protected by U.S. Supreme Court precedent limiting the political speech of mandatory bar associations. The precedential case is Keller v. State Bar of California that held that mandatory membership bar associations can use members’ dues only for regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services — not for political or ideological activities.

FunHouse 119Turning the argument on its head, the State Bar is saying with a straight face that it’s now protecting free speech by lobbying against legislation that protects free speech. It’s a brazen rephrasing: “I was against free speech before I was for free speech.”

Heavens Angels 87Were it truly interested in safeguarding the free speech rights of its members, the Bar would have by now taken affirmative steps and much more meaningful ones than its pious protestations of so-called ‘Keller-purity.’

Moreover, how does lobbying against voluntary bar legislation that has nothing to do with intruding on the Court’s lawyer regulation authority or with improving the quality of legal services satisfy the criteria under Keller? It doesn’t.

Instead, the Bar complies with Keller under the broadest of interpretations. Anything and everything goes so long as the activities encompass “core interests of the mandatory bar, interests of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, or promote advancements in Arizona jurisprudence.” And oh, just in case, there’s the ‘catch-all’ —  “any other activity authorized by law.” See Criteria so expansive you could drive a dump truck through it.”

Assuming members ever find out about objectionable activities — and only after the fact — the Arizona Bar says members have “the option of challenging the Bar to ensure that any position taken is within the Keller guidelines.”  This is a purgative past the point of needing it. What matter if a member objects to the Bar’s lobbying against legislation protecting attorney free speech if the objection occurs after the lobbying has killed the legislation? It’s a nickel-and-dime ‘remedy’ so not much of one.

No separation of powers problem.

Wildlife & Animals 5041The State Bar’s last-ditch efforts to block the bill in the House last week also centered on alleged separation of powers grounds. On the House Floor, Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, a leading opponent argued that the Legislature was overstepping its bounds. He told a local newspaper, “I’m afraid this bill specifically directs the Supreme Court to do certain things. And I’m still concerned this body cannot.”

But this is incorrect as was pointed out in a well-crafted separation of powers legal memorandum that maintains “HB 2221 is consistent with the Legislature’s authority to protect constitutional rights and assure transparency in government, while respecting the Supreme Court’s role in attorney regulation.”

Friese is an Arizona physician. But unlike Arizona attorneys, he is not required to join a professional trade association to practice his profession. His only precondition to earn a living as a doctor is to pay the Arizona Medical Board $500 every two years for regulation and licensing.

Unfortunately, ‘what’s sauce for this goose is not sauce for that gander.’ In spite of the obvious intellectual inconsistency, the good doctor is not dissuaded. He’ll continue carrying water for the Bar against any legislation that puts lawyers on the same footing as his profession.

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(As a lawyer assistance program volunteer first in Texas and now in Arizona, attorney Karyl Krug has years of demonstrated commitment to providing peer assistance, intervention, and rehabilitation support for colleagues whose professional performance is impaired because of substance abuse, dependency or mental health disorders. Krug says the Texas Lawyer Assistance Program is “nationally acclaimed” but the Arizona Bar’s program where she currently volunteers —  not so much. The Texas program was created in 1989 as the Bar’s approved peer assistance program under the authority of Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 467. But in Arizona, confronted again with proposed voluntary state bar legislation, instead of structural improvement Krug detects a budding Arizona Bar public relations campaign as the Bar gins up surveys and marketing to belatedly put a better face on a “Member Assistance Program” Krug finds wanting. Here is her commentary).

The Arizona Bar has no Member Assistance Program.

They just want you to think they do.

Guest Blogger Opinion by Karyl Krug

During his truthiness tour to save his six-figure salary, State Bar of Arizona CEO/Executive Director John Phelps has repeatedly told lawyers and elected officials that the Bar performs two major services for lawyer members:

(1) vigorously prosecutes the unauthorized practice of law (it does so rarely and selectively); and

(2) helps lawyers in need with its Lawyer Assistance Program or Member Assistance Program, or whatever they are calling it this year.

The latter statement is so misleading I hardly know where to begin. For simplicity’s sake, I will henceforth refer to it as ALAP.

I’ve been a member of the State Bar of Arizona since 2011 but a member of the Texas State Bar for 23 years, as well as a long-time volunteer for the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP). I am also currently an ALAP volunteer.

I testified at the Arizona House subcommittee hearings on the Bar that contrary to representations made by Mr. Phelps and elsewhere by State Bar of Arizona President Geoff Trachtenberg, ALAP is a shell of a program that is much worse than what the Arizona Bar had in 1999.

The woman running the ALAP, Regina Tepper, runs a total of five different programs for the Arizona Bar, including ALAP. She is stretched a little thin. She recently sent out the following by e-mail:

“Anecdotally it appears that we had increased success with the Peer Support network . . . some of you have shared with me that you have received calls for the first time ever and it is very encouraging that the word is getting out. If you have been to the State Bar offices in Phoenix recently you may have noticed that our ad for the Peer Support Network is now a regular slide on our lobby marquises. I hope you’ve noticed the great ad in the Arizona Attorney as well.

“As part of our year-end review of 2015, I am asking that each of you share with me the following information, if you have received calls from members, judges or their families during 2015:
• The number of individuals who contacted you. Please do not share names with me; as always, that is confidential.
• Whether those individuals contacted you for themselves or about another person
• How many contacts (total) you received, if different from the total number of individuals from whom you had contact
• A general categorization of the reason for their contact
o Mental health
o Alcohol or substance abuse
o Work-life balance, stress or burn-out
o Issue with non-lawyer family member”

Suddenly, there is a push, through screen images and advertising, to make bar members believe that there is a real Member Assistance Program in Arizona, although it is only “anecdotally” successful and the Bar has no idea how many lawyers in trouble have contacted volunteers. Mr. Phelps has been testifying that ALAP is an important and successful program for helping lawyers when the truth is he has no idea, except “anecdotally,” whether this relatively new alleged program is helping anyone or not.

As had been the case throughout the fight for a non-mandatory Bar, reality has been incrementally tweaked to bolster Mr. Phelps’s flights of fancy.

Sometime after the Bar quietly sent its former member assistance program director out of the building, it decided to start a shell ALAP. Today, ALAP is a list of volunteers with phone numbers.

One day of training, and you can volunteer to help — even if you have no experience whatsoever with alcohol and drug abuse, mental health issues, burnout, and other issues common to the legal profession that even many psychologists and psychiatrists are not fully competent to deal with.

Yet participation in ALAP is often compulsory. At the same time, ALAP’s budget for 2013-2014 is listed on the published two page AZ Bar budget as $50.

TLAP, by contrast, is run by several full-time employees and has a national network of resources; funds for lawyers in need of treatment; the annual Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention; nationally known speakers; and a statewide network of volunteers ready to spring into action from Texarkana to Brownsville.

Lawyers in trouble are often referred to TLAP by the disciplinary arm of the bar, as well as by concerned individuals, before the disciplinary arm of the Texas Bar swings into action.

TLAP volunteers in recovery have to have at least a year of continuous sobriety. TLAP volunteers go out in pairs, after making an appointment, to talk to a possibly impaired lawyer or judge, to offer the lawyer help and safe harbor if they are willing to address their issues.

Participation is not compulsory. It is a third degree felony to blow anonymity of a lawyer who is referred to or seeks the help of TLAP. Their budget for the same biennium was in excess of $300,000. The Texas Bar’s published budget is 261 pages long.

I have tried to help out at ALAP but to my horror, after I received a couple of calls, I realized that ALAP has no program to send a lawyer to. One lawyer asked me if he should call the Arizona Bar for help. I said something like, “Oh, God, no!” There is no program to help them. And by that time I had seen disbarment orders citing the disbarred lawyer’s failure to complete ALAP or AMAP.

While ALAP says it is confidential, if your failure to complete ALAP shows up on a published disbarment order, it is not confidential.

Woman s face uid 14The good thing about networking is that you get to know people and, coincidentally, a speaker at the 1999 Arizona State Bar/Arizona Concerned for Lawyers CLE is an old friend. At one point, Arizona had a real ALAP and an ALCL and all the rest. I saw the copious materials for the 1999 course.

So at one point ALAP was a real deal. What happened? Who decided impaired lawyers were no longer worthy of real assistance from the Bar?

 

 

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Photos: morguefile.com, no attribution

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Home Improvement 26Hat’s off — I think — to State Bar of Arizona President Geoff Trachtenberg for exercising his free speech rights and speaking his own mind. Last month, Trachtenberg emailed the General Counsel to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to express his “candid thoughts” about why Clint Bolick, one of the nominees to the state’s highest court, was “clearly not the best candidate for the job.” And because Trachtenberg wasn’t expressly wearing his state bar presidential mantle when doing so, I guess folks can’t say he was speaking for the state’s compulsory membership bar.

But the point is hardly incidental. It goes to the heart of First Amendment compelled-speech jurisprudence under Keller v. State Bar of California.  A mandatory bar requires lawyers to join and pay dues as a condition of practicing law in the state. So when a mandatory bar spends member dues on speech that the member opposes such as lobbying against a judicial candidate, the state action that compels payment of dues infringes on that member’s First Amendment rights.

Keller came about when at its 1982 convention, State Bar of California President Anthony Murray derided U.S. Senate Candidate Pete Wilson for urging the recall of Chief Justice Rose Bird if the California Supreme Court overturned the “Victims’ Bill of Rights.” Murray’s speech and resulting bar resolution prompted 21 California lawyers to sue their state bar. Unfortunately for Murray and the state bar, Wilson went on to become a U.S. Senator and eventually Governor of California.

Incongruously, parsing a distinction between private speech and organizational speech doesn’t necessarily provide a safe harbor. See what happened last year to Nevada State Bar President Alan J. Lefebvre who thought he was expressing only his opinion not the Nevada Bar’s when he editorialized on same-sex marriage in the bar’s magazine.

Trachtenberg’s communication was one of a number of letters, emails, and phone calls from Arizonans and from out-of-staters weighing in on Bolick’s candidacy and that of other nominees. As reported by The Yellow Sheet Report (paywall) over 600 critics’ and supporters’ letters and emails sent to the governor and the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments about the state supreme court nominees were just released by the governor’s staff. Having seen Trachtenberg’s email, give the man props for candor — if not for circumspection inasmuch as Bolick was widely regarded as the front-runner.

Speaking for himself and not from the State Bar of Arizona Presidential dais, Trachtenberg opined that state supreme court candidate Bolick was “interested in bringing his brand of justice to the Court — not merely “applying the law.””

Trachtenberg also went on to add that Bolick appears to be more interested in shaping law rather than applying it and “would be better suited to being in the legislature.”

He wrote, “While I’ve not reviewed the applications of existing and former Supreme Court justices, one has to wonder if there has ever been a nominee for Arizona’s highest court who similarly lacks meaningful judicial or practical experience, let alone an actual justice.”

Oops! On January 6th, Governor Ducey announced his appointment of Clint Bolick to the Arizona Supreme Court. In making his first gubernatorial state supreme court appointment, Governor Ducey explained in a press release that “Clint is nationally renowned and respected as a constitutional law scholar and as a champion of liberty.

“He brings extensive experience and expertise, an unwavering regard for the rule of law and a firm commitment to the state and citizens of Arizona. I’m confident Clint will serve impartially and honorably in this important role.”

Prior to his elevation as Arizona’s newest high court justice, Phoenix lawyer Bolick worked as Vice President of Litigation for the Goldwater Institute.

Home Improvement 88Based on past practice, the high court’s newest justice gets assigned as the supreme court’s liaison to the Arizona Bar’s Board of Governors.

Wondering aloud — that first board meeting presided by bar president Trachtenberg with the new justice in attendance might be awkward. But no doubt there’s fence-mending in the offing.

 

 

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On Monday morning, January 11, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case with potentially positive impact on the First Amendment rights of lawyers.

The case is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Except it’s not a case about lawyers. It’s a union case that’s widely described as “devastating to public-sector unions.

The questions presented in Friedrichs are:

(1) Do public-sector agency shop arrangements violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly?

(2) Does the First Amendment prohibit the practice of requiring public employees to affirmatively opt-out of subsidizing nonchargeable speech rather than to affirmatively consent?

But depending on who you ask, a decision for the petitioners would either vindicate workers’ First Amendment rights or in the view of elite lawyer doomsayers “would have a profoundly destabilizing impact on bars all over the country.”  The latter declaration is what 21 former Presidents of the District of Columbia Bar claimed in their amicus brief asking that Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) be left “undisturbed.”

Petitioners Rebecca Friedrichs and her co-plaintiff teachers want the Court to overrule Abood. But it’s not because of concerns over the constitutional rights of lawyers even though like the petitioners, they, too, are forced to fund speech they oppose in order to earn a living in their chosen profession. Instead, the petitioners want the Court to rule that the free speech rights of non-union members ought to trump any obligation to contribute to the costs of representation.

In typical exaggerated bull and bunkum, mandatory bar stakeholders contend that a ruling against the California teachers union “would very likely spawn additional time-consuming and expensive lawsuits by bar members who do not want to pay their mandatory bar dues. Such lawsuits would severely distract this country’s thirty-two integrated bars from their critical work “serv[ing] the‘State’s interest in regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services.’”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/29/High_rider_CicLAvia_2010.jpg/486px-High_rider_CicLAvia_2010.jpg If the petitioners prevail, alarmed union leaders believe more workers would become so-called “free riders.” The result could lead to a drop in union membership and revenue that could not only harm existing collective bargaining contracts but change election year dynamics.

Amy Howe at Scotus Blog has a plain English explanation of the case at “Justices return to dispute over union fees for non-members: In Plain English.” Also see “Public Unions Face High-Court Hurdle.”

Why mandatory bars should be worried.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f2/Captain_of_the_nine_%281912%29_%2814566361667%29.jpg/402px-Captain_of_the_nine_%281912%29_%2814566361667%29.jpg Abood is a case that the nation’s 32-mandatory membership state bar associations rely on to continually impinge on the free speech and free association rights of their members. Abood supports an overly broad interpretation of ‘permissible’ mandatory bar First Amendment encroachments under Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1, 12 (1990). But contrary to what the self-interested past bar presidents said in their brief, Keller allows mandatory bar associations to compel dues only for the narrow purpose of improving the practice of law through the regulation of attorneys.

I won’t dive further into the weeds to analyze Friedrichs beyond recommending you read the arguments of the D.C. Bar and the Goldwater Institute, which also filed its own amicus brief. In part, the Goldwater Institute summarizes its position as follows,

“This Court has always required that chargeable
expenditures related to improving the quality of legal
services also be connected to regulating the legal
profession. Lathrop v. Donohue, 367 U.S. 820, 843
(1961); Keller, 496 U.S. at 14; United States v. United
Foods, Inc., 533 U.S. 405, 414 (2001); Harris v.
Quinn, 134 S. Ct. 2618, 2643 (2014). Mandatory bar
associations and lower courts have mistakenly concluded
that Keller identified two purposes that allow
bar associations to compel membership: “improving
the quality of legal services” and “regulation of lawyers.”
See, e.g., Kingstad v. State Bar of Wisconsin,
622 F.3d 708 (7th Cir. 2010). Misconstruing Keller as
permitting mandatory bars to compel dues for two
broad and distinct purposes harms members’ First
Amendment rights and places Keller in the same
dangerous territory as Abood by leading mandatory
bars to routinely spend coerced dues on a broad range
of political and ideological activities.”

Hubris

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1e/Punch_%281841%29_%2814802616693%29.jpg/472px-Punch_%281841%29_%2814802616693%29.jpgWhat I will opine about is the irony of the District of Columbia Bar taking the lead. Talk about monumental hubris and unmitigated gall.

For one, the D.C. Bar rivals the State Bar of Arizona in its self-congratulatory capacity and unabashed resistance to reform. But what’s especially rich is the poetic justice that could result if the Court also revisits Keller and rules that mandatory bar associations can only compel dues for lawyer regulation and not for non-regulatory purposes like building monuments to itself.

The D.C. Bar is buying an expensive new office monument for itself (just like the Arizona Bar did several years ago). On its website, it maintains that, “ownership of the building allows the Bar to save more than $25 million over 30 years versus renting—money that can be used to find more ways to provide member value while maintaining the Bar’s position in the lowest quartile of dues rates in the country. Doing more. Managing costs. Driving direct member value. That’s what the new home affords the Bar.”

The D.C. Bar is one of the largest in the United States. A preponderance of its members live outside the District of Columbia. As longtime D.C. Bar critic Mike Frisch editorializes at D. C. Bar Wants To Raise Dues Ceiling” about the D.C. Bar’s “lowest dues for a bar its size,” he says it’s “a disingenuous dodge that ignores a fact obvious to anyone who understands the true composition of the D.C. Bar.  D.C. has more out-of-state lawyers than anywhere else. They pay full dues for no service. They are the Bar’s hidden endowment and they fund the profligacy.”

And now thanks to a court order signed last month, as of July 1, 2016, the dues ceiling will be raised from $285 to $380 for D.C. Bar members. At “Happy New Year D. C. Bar: Pay Up!,” Frisch complains, “Now the best-paid bar employees in America can increase their salaries, travel to every domestic and international bar-related party and buy themselves a fancy building with primo views, all at the expense of a membership that had no say in the process.”

No wonder the entitled legal elites at the D.C. Bar got so worked up about Friedrichs. But so should the nation’s 31 other mandatory bars.

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Credits: Morguefile.com, no attribution, High Rider, by Downtowngal at Wikimedia Commons; Captain of the Nine, at Wikimedia Commons, via Flickr Creative Commons; Punch, at Wikimedia Commons via Flickr Creative Commons.

 

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photoMandatory state bars long ago lost their ability to surprise. Just when you think tin-eared insularity reaches its limits — wait two beats — there’s always more.

Last month, for example, in his President’s Message: Task Force to Tackle Unauthorized Practice of Law, the Nevada State Bar President after first announcing a new bar task force to study the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision against state-sponsored protectionism in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, then surprisingly segued into a clarion call for more ways “to protect the public interest” from the unauthorized practice of law. Methinks he reached the wrong conclusion.

As a matter of fact, the North Carolina Dental Board case runs counter to self-regulated active market participants fostering anti-competitive regulations and actions for their own — not the public’s benefit. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained “Active market participants cannot be allowed to regulate their own markets free from antitrust accountability. When a state empowers a group of active market participants to decide who can participate in its market, and on what terms, the need for supervision is manifest. If a state wants to rely on active market participants as regulators, it must provide active supervision.”

No wonder those who aren’t state bar presidents are reading the case as “a blow for consumers and economic freedom.” Others even opine it may “drill down into bar associations’ [anti-trust] immunity.”

But no worries apparently in Nevada. In fact, some mandatory bars are acting as though the ruling has no impact since mandatory bar governing boards are either under the “active supervision” of state supreme courts or because lawyer regulation comes under the state supreme court or because bars don’t define what constitutes the practice of law (UPL).

In Arizona, where what constitutes the practice of law has been progressively diluted first, by court-certified legal document preparers exempted from UPL by supreme court rule and soon by the rumored introduction of Washington State-styled Limited License Legal Technicians, I predict the besainted Arizona Bar will declare itself anti-competitively pure.

But at least one mandatory state bar association has decided to pay half attention to what happened to North Carolina’s dentists. The State Bar of Washington announced last week it was suspending some ethics opinions because of antitrust concerns.

Bright line test.

Outside the insular world of bar associations, public interest and consumer groups are also weighing in. In a letter to California’s Attorney General earlier this year, consumer interest representatives asked for an inquiry of all state regulatory bodies in California.

Calling the North Carolina decision a “bright-line minimum test,” the public interest groups wrote, “Those controlling the decisions that might restrain trade may not be “active market participants” in the trade regulated. For every agency so afflicted, the legal status of those making such decisions is clear – they are, in the words of the Court, “nonsovereign actors” who lack any state sovereign immunity whatever. Their decisions are no different than a decision undertaken by a cartel or private combination of competitors. You are invited to review the decision en toto and draw your own conclusions, or to refer it and this letter to the leading antitrust prosecutors and experts in your jurisdiction.”

Concerning lawyers and state bar associations, in a footnote the correspondents declared, “By way of illustration: State bars controlled by attorneys rarely discipline for excessive billing or intellectual dishonesty. Few require any demonstration whatever of competence in the actual practice area of law relied upon by clients. Few require malpractice insurance, or in any way ameliorate the harm from attorney incompetence.

“The point is, each of the many agencies within your state is empowered to carve out momentous exceptions from federal antitrust law, and those decisions in particular require a level of independence from the implicit focus of current practitioners.”

The woes of the amici.

Before the decision, some mandatory state bars had signed onto the North Carolina Bar’s amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Fourth Circuit. They’d claimed that upholding the Fourth Circuit would interfere with the state sovereign’s ability to regulate state-licensed professionals and state public protection laws. See “SCOTUS’ Upcoming Decision Could Leave State Bar Associations Toothless.”

They cited 4 likely gloom and doom impairments:

“(1) The limited resources available to prosecute lawyer misconduct and to prevent the unauthorized practice of law will be diverted to litigating whether the state bar’s action has been actively supervised in a manner sufficient to provide state action immunity.
(2) State bars will have to defend expensive antitrust actions even though states explicitly authorize the state bars to regulate the conduct being challenged.
(3) Lawyers will be reluctant to serve as bar councilors for fear of being sued—and of being held individually liable—in treble damage antitrust actions.
(4) Councilors who do agree to serve may be deterred from fulfilling their state authorized enforcement duties against defendants who threaten antitrust claims.”

Ironically, given the subsequent underwhelmed attitudes of some state bars in the case’s aftermath, the woes of the amici may have been overwrought pretense or much ado about nada. Perhaps the Justices were right to pay no mind.

Such little reaction despite all those supposed impairments. It appears the sky was never going to fall.

Or I’m wrong after all. No clue may be better than half-a-clue.

 

 

 

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Photo Credits: “No Tolerance” by Jimmy Changa, Icky Pic, via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution at Flickr; Other photos via Morguefile.com, no attribution required.

 

 

 

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