Pending Lawsuit Wants to End Mandatory Bar Fees for Practicing Lawyers in Michigan

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An attorney filed a lawsuit Thursday against Michigan’s state bar, which requires practicing lawyers to pay an annual bar fee in Michigan in violatation of their First Amendment rights.

Lucille Taylor, along with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, sued Michigan in an attempt to make the state a right-to-work state for practicing lawyers. This lawsuit wants to end the rule of requiring attorneys to pay mandatory fees and associate with the state bar. It argues that the fee infringes on people’s right to freely associate and be free from compelled political speech.

The lawsuit comes a year after the landmark Supreme Court case of Janus v. AFSCME found that involuntary union fees for public sector work violated the First Amendment. The case’s plaintiff thinks that forcing practicing attorneys to pay an annual fee is no different.

“Since the passage of right-to-work in Michigan and the recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME, I expected the State Bar of Michigan itself to initiate measures to become a voluntary membership organization, which it has failed to do,” Taylor said.

Taylor, who previously worked as a special assistant to Michigan’s attorney general, has been a paying member of the state’s bar since 1972. During her career as a lawyer, Taylor believes she has been required to be in an organization that doesn’t align with her beliefs.

“In order to practice law over the past 48 years, I’ve been compelled to be a member of an organization that speaks for me, regardless of whether or not I share its beliefs,” she said. “Lawyers in their personal and professional capacities hold and articulate a diverse set of opinions.”

Currently, over 45,000 practicing attorneys in Michigan must pay a yearly $315 fee to maintain their membership.

The required state agency fees go toward things such as discipline boards and attorney grievance commissions. However, the remaining fees can be used for political speech that members might not agree with, according to the Mackinac Center press release.

Michigan’s state bar issued a statement to the Detroit Free Press in response to the pending lawsuit.

“The lawsuit filed today follows a pattern of lawsuits across the country against integrated state bars which attempt to equate integrated state bars with unions,” the statement said. “That analogy is fundamentally wrong. Michigan, along with most other states, has chosen to integrate the bar into the regulation of the profession in order to better serve the public and save taxpayer dollars.

According to the Mackinac Center’s press release, at least 20 states including New York and California don’t have required membership associations for attorneys.

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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Battleground State NewsFollow Zachery on Twitter.
Photo “Lucille Taylor” by Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. 

 

 

 

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