Like a number of other states, Wisconsin by law requires lawyers to join and pay dues to its state bar, which takes stands on controversial issues. Two earlier SCOTUS cases upheld mandatory bar rules. Has the Janus decision changed that? [Deborah La Fetra, Ilya Shapiro, and Trevor Burrus on Cato certiorari brief in Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin; Alison Frankel, Reuters; Eugene Volokh (in second case seeking certiorari, Fleck v. Wetch, Eighth Circuit rejected challenge to North Dakota dues; and note update that Supreme Court has denied certiorari in that North Dakota case); earlier here (Louisiana challenge), here, here (Texas)]
Josh Blackman spots an article in the ABA Journal proposing a new ABA Model Rule 8.5 that would declare it “a lawyer’s professional responsibility to promote equality in society generally, diversity in the legal profession specifically, and encourage lawyers to devote 20 hours annually to activities directed toward promoting diversity in the profession.” Blackman writes:
The [proposed] Rule adopts a specific philosophical viewpoint–promoting diversity and inclusion–and makes it the orthodoxy for attorneys. Under this proposed rule, those who do not adopt that philosophy will be violating a “duty” and “ethical obligation.” Those who choose not to attend certain CLE classes would now be disregarding an aspirational goal….
Not every attorney agrees that “every lawyer has a professional duty to undertake affirmative steps to remedy de facto and de jure discrimination, eliminate bias, and promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.” Far too many attorneys–especially academics–take this statement as an unassailable fact of life. It’s not.
Bar associations exist to promote and regulate the legal profession. They do not exist to promote specific ideologies.
Compare ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), which Blackman and many others have argued is a step toward an unconstitutional speech code for attorneys, and the mandatory statements of support for diversity, equity and inclusion in the University of California system and elsewhere in higher education.
“The Wall Street Journal reports that the Judicial Conference is thinking of prohibiting judges from being members of the Federalist Society. It’s too political — or so the Judicial Conference believes.
“If the Judicial Conference does ban judges from being members of the Federalist Society, it will need to do the same for the ABA. Unlike the Federalist Society, which takes no stand on any legal or political issue, the ABA weighs in on countless issues… [and] files amicus curiae briefs before the Supreme Court, again with a consistent slant to the left. The long march through the institutions infiltrated the ABA long ago.
“Similarly, membership in ‘affinity bar associations’ like the National Hispanic Bar Association and the National Bar Association (which is for African American lawyers), and the National Association of Women Lawyers will need to be prohibited. Those left-leaning organizations routinely take stands on controversial issues and file amicus briefs. The Federalist Society never does and never will.” [Gail Heriot; Wall Street Journal editorial board; earlier on Federalist Society and its critics here, here, etc.]
Josh Blackman, at The Atlantic and Volokh Conspiracy, has the tale of how in the nomination of conservative Ninth Circuit nominee Lawrence Van Dyke, the American Bar Association (ABA) appears to have played fast and loose with the interview process, breaking its own rules along the way. Given “that the ABA cannot be trusted to accurately recount the conversations” resulting from its inquiries, Blackman proposes that in future “these interrogations should be treated as hostile depositions. A court reporter and videographer should be present, as well as private retained counsel to push back on unfounded accusations.”
“A libertarian attorney filed a lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Louisiana State Bar Association’s monopoly on the legal profession, joining a wave of similar litigation in other states. New Orleans insurance defense lawyer Randy Boudreaux alleges in the federal court suit that his rights of free speech and free association are being violated because the bar association collects his mandatory dues while taking positions on controversial issues like the death penalty and LGBT rights…. Boudreaux, a married gay man, said he agrees with the bar association’s position in favor of LGBT rights. But he’s opposed to the idea of compelling his fellow lawyers to pay for a group with which they disagree.” [Matt Sledge, NOLA.com, earlier] But note: Eighth Circuit rejects argument that North Dakota bar fees are open to challenge under Janus [Fleck v. Wetch]
In a divided vote last month, “The Law Society of Ontario ditched a controversial rule requiring all lawyers to adopt and abide by a statement advocating equality and diversity.” A compromise measure adopted instead “requires lawyers and paralegals to acknowledge, each year on their report to the society, an awareness of their existing professional obligation to abide by human rights legislation.” [Adrian Humphreys, National Post; text of new requirement at LSO; Cosmin Dzsurdzsa, The Post Millennial; CBC Radio; earlier]
Many colleges have adopted a principle known as “affirmative consent,” which makes it easier to infer misconduct (and thus impose expulsion or other discipline) when a record is lacking in verbal or physical evidence one way or the other as to whether a student’s sexual encounter with another student was consensual. It might seem unthinkable to apply such a standard in criminal law, where the consequences are not expulsion but imprisonment and the burdens of sex offender registration.
And yet that’s the gist of a resolution urged on the American Bar Association by its Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Read my account at Cato, and then for additional insight check out the letter from Bay Area employment lawyer Mark Schickman, who chairs that sponsoring commission, especially the portions characterizing “The Principle Behind the Opposition.” Emily Yoffe’s investigation into the oddly influential “freeze” theory is here.
It was a close-fought thing, but Monday afternoon the assembled ABA House of Delegates voted to table the resolution 256-165, killing it for this conference at least.
As I noted last year, the American Bar Association in 2016 adopted as a recommendation its Model Rule 8.4 (g),
which makes it “professional misconduct” for an attorney to engage in “conduct,” including verbal “conduct,” that “the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.” …
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has argued that the ABA rule’s scope “is broad and vague enough to potentially apply to a wide range of political speech, and thus violate the First Amendment.”
The rule would invite charges of professional misconduct against lawyers who express or circulate opinions, jokes, or graphics that they should have known would make a listener uncomfortable based on one or another protected class membership. It would apply in an extremely wide range of contexts “related to the practice of law”, as listed in these April comments:
Activities that seem to fall within the extremely broad scope of proposed Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g) include:
* presenting CLE courses;
* participating in panel discussions that touch on controversial political, religious, and social viewpoints;
* teaching law school classes as faculty, adjunct faculty, or guest lecturers;
* writing law review articles, op-eds, blogposts, or tweets;
* giving media interviews;
* serving on the board of one’s religious congregation, K-12 school, or college;
* providing pro bono legal advice to nonprofits;
* serving at legal aid clinics;
* lobbying on various legal issues;
* testifying before a legislative body;
* writing comment letters to government agencies;
* sitting on the board of a fraternity or sorority;
* volunteering for political parties; and
* advocating through social justice organizations.
While some state codes of lawyer conduct already ban bias and harassment, these have generally been drafted much more narrowly. In Maine, for example, up to now the missteps have to have been committed “knowingly,” in the course of representing a client, and in a manner “prejudicial to the administration of justice” — all three important safeguards against overbreadth.
Model Rule 8.4 (g) has faced rough sledding around the states since it was proposed. According to these comments in October, “seven states have rejected the rule: Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, and Tennessee have rejected the proposal. The Attorneys General of four states have concluded that adopting the rule would violate the First Amendment: Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Only Vermont has adopted the model rule in its entirety.”
As Vermont goes, so goes Maine: the Pine Tree State’s highest court has now adopted a version of the rule, although narrowed in several respects. In particular, the Maine version defines “the practice of law” in a less broad (though still quite broad) way that covers fewer purely social activities; it removes socioeconomic status and marital status from the list of protected classes; and it tries at least to define what sorts of speech it will deem to be bias or harassment. Its definition is still quite unclear in its contours, however, and far broader than the standard approved by the U.S. Supreme Court as to harassment law and speech liability in workplace and university settings.
Let’s hope other states don’t follow Maine’s example: even as narrowed, the rules curtail important rights.
In the mean time, however, there is heartening news from Ontario, Canada, where (as I reported last year) the Law Society had gone all in on rules that go much further than the ABA’s, requiring all lawyers on eventual pain of discipline to draft a personal Statement of Principles (SOP) avowing a dedication to principles of diversity, equality, and inclusion. The Society rejected a proposal “to create an exemption to the new mandatory Statement of Principles for persons who believe the requirement violates their freedom of conscience.”
But its membership revolted. Attorney Lisa Bildy and other SOP objectors led a campaign that, in a seeming miracle, elected 22 of its supporters to the 40 lawyer seats among the benchers (governors) at the Law Society. While the newly elected are not a majority because of the other seats on the body reserved for lay benchers and paralegals, the message was unmistakable (more on the campaign from Bruce Pardy, Murray Klippenstein, Teng Rong, and Dylan McGuinty). Now, in the face of a determined campaign of abuse directed at the incoming benchers (sidelight), the Law Society of Ontario’s governing Convocation will meet June 27 to begin considering whether to repeal, render optional, otherwise change, or retain the Statement of Principles requirements.
The June 27 Law Society meeting, and what follows, deserve a close watch by all of us concerned about the rise of speech codes and forced expression in the professions.
The Supreme Court’s Janus decision on public sector union fees was not received in a spirit of total cooperation by all public sector unions and employers. Two Cato Daily Podcasts from late last year, one with Robert Alt of the Buckeye Institute, the other with Ken Girardin of The Empire Center:
And now, citing the First Amendment and the Janus precedent, “three conservative lawyers are seeking to overturn Texas laws that require attorneys to join the State Bar of Texas and pay annual dues;” in Texas, as in many states, bar dues go to various ideologically fraught issues and causes [Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman]
Just for fun: Cato’s amicus brief in Janus v. AFSCME is an answer on Jeopardy!
- “An important win for property owners”: Supreme Court rules 8-0 that protected species habitat doesn’t include tracts containing no actual dusty gopher frogs and not inhabitable by them absent modification [Roger Pilon, George Will, earlier on Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Cato Daily Podcast with Holly Fretwell and Caleb Brown (“The Frog Never Had a Chance”)]
- Proposed revision of federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would expand definition of domestic violence to include nonviolent “verbal, emotional, economic, or technological” abuse. Vagueness only the start of the problems here [Wendy McElroy, The Hill]
- Bad ideas endorsed by the American Bar Association, part 3,972: laws requiring landlords to take Section 8 tenants [ABA Journal; earlier on “source of income discrimination” laws]
- Minneapolis “Healthy Foods Ordinance” drives up costs for convenience stores, worsens food waste, pressures ethnic grocers into Anglo formats [Christian Britschgi]
- New York Attorney General-elect Letitia (Tish) James has been zealous about suit-filing in recent years, quality another matter [Scott Greenfield]
- “Plaintiff wins $1,000 in statutory damages for technical violation of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (Debt collector illegally used the words ‘credit bureau’ in its business name.) After plaintiff’s lawyers seek $130k in fees, district court awards them the princely sum of $0. Fifth Circuit: Just so. While fees are ordinarily mandatory, ‘special circumstances’ obtain here: The record suggests that the plaintiff colluded with her lawyers to generate this ‘outrageous’ fee-heavy lawsuit in Texas instead of in her home state of Louisiana.” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit” on Davis v. Credit Bureau of the South]