Louisiana Record

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Lawsuit against mandatory bar association membership for lawyers sidelined – for now

Attorneys & Judges

By Zeta Cross | Jan 27, 2020

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Federal Judge Lance Africk | Wikipedia

A federal judge sidelined a lawsuit from lawyers who object to the requirement that Louisiana attorneys must be dues-paying members of the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA).

In his ruling, Judge Lance Africk held that previous Supreme Court rulings have already upheld mandatory bar association membership. 

Louisiana and 29 other states have bar association membership requirements for attorneys.

New Orleans Attorney Randy Boudreaux, the attorney who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court last year, said the requirement violates freedom of speech and freedom of association rights. He says the LSBA acts more like a trade association that takes advocacy positions rather than a regulatory body whose job is to make sure that attorneys are qualified and behave ethically. 

“The LSBA uses members’ mandatory dues to advocate for and against public policies, which may or may not have anything to do with the practice of law,” Boudreaux said. 

The LSBA sometimes takes political positions and uses members’ dues to advocate for issues that some members strongly oppose, Boudreaux told the Record. One example is the lobbying effort by the LSBA against reducing the $50,000 threshold amount required in order to request a jury trial in a civil matter, a tort reform effort backed by conservatives. Boudreaux’s lawsuit also cited the LSBA’s support for a moratorium on the death penalty, a position opposed by some conservatives. 

In his ruling, Africk said the issues Boudreaux raised in the lawsuit belong in state court.

Attorney Dane S. Ciolino, professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, is working with Boudreau and others on Boudreaux's lawsuit. 

“Our next step is the appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Ciolino said. “We will not file suit in state court.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME in 2018 that public employees do not have to pay fees to unions as a condition of employment. Boudreaux said that decision opened the door for his suit.

 “We will continue to monitor the progress of similar cases that are currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ciolino said. 

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Louisiana State Bar Association