Considerable scrutiny has been placed on the State Bar of Arizona recently following its decision to pursue investigations and disciplinary actions against attorneys representing clients and causes associated with the Republican Party – particularly election attorneys. The Arizona bar is investigating and has found probable cause against Kari Lake’s attorney Bryan Blehm, and he expects they will disbar him. Former Maricopa County prosecutor April Sponsel recently underwent a disciplinary trial for charging violent Antifa rioters with gang charges, and is waiting to find out if the bar’s disciplinary judge will suspend her license for two years.
The Arizona bar, like 31 other state bars, is a mandatory bar, which it switched to in 1933. This means in order to practice law in Arizona, attorneys are required to be a member. But the requirement to join, some argue, puts Arizona afoul of right-to-work provisions in state law, since many view it as illegally mandating attorneys join a union.
The Goldwater Institute has sued state bars to try and break up the mandatory nature, focusing on the aspect that the bars use the dues to engage in political conduct, violating the First Amendment. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with the Goldwater Institute, ruling that Louisiana must stop forcing New Orleans attorney Randy Boudreaux to pay mandatory bar association dues as a condition of practicing law. The court held that an attorney cannot be compelled by the state to pay dues to a state bar association that engages in any activities that are not “inherently connected” to regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services.
The court stated that the Louisiana State Bar Association took positions on political issues including “antidiscrimination laws for LGBT individuals, compliance with a state equal pay act, a rewriting of the state’s high school civics curriculum, a moratorium on executions in Louisiana pending certain criminal justice reforms, licensure of midwives, and concealed carry by school officials.”
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