Posts Tagged ‘bar associations’

Janus: what comes after

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:

Related: Federalist Society podcast with William Messenger and panel with Messenger, Steven Greenhut, Hon. Chuck Reed, and Hon. Ryan Nelson; William Baude (critical of Janus).

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!

December 5 roundup

  • “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]

Free speech roundup

  • Repercussions of Supreme Court’s Janus ruling on bar associations’ compulsory extraction of dues from nonmembers [Maxine Bernstein, Oregonian] “State Supreme Court calls a ‘timeout’ for Washington Bar Association to review its rules” [Steve Miletich, Seattle Times] “ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) Cannot Survive the Supreme Court’s Recent Decisions in NIFLA and Matal” [Kim Colby, Federalist Society, earlier on rule banning some types of speech and expression by lawyers on anti-discrimination grounds]
  • Pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio sues New York Times for libel [Quint Forgey, Politico; Joe Setyon, Reason; over the years]
  • When may governments boycott private companies’ output because those companies promote disapproved ideas? [Eugene Volokh, more]
  • First Amendment has consistently foiled Donald Trump’s designs against critics’ speech [Jacob Sullum; related, David Henderson] “The culture of free speech has been deteriorating for long enough that politics, sadly and predictably, is catching up.” [Matt Welch] “Threats of violence discourage people from participating in civic life. This is an unusually good opportunity to deter them.” [Conor Friedersdorf during Ford-Kavanaugh episode]
  • “Fighting Words and Free Speech” [John Samples] “A New Podcast on Free Speech: Many Victories, Many Struggles” [same on Jacob Mchangama podcast series]
  • “U.K. Supreme Court: Baker Doesn’t Have to Place Pro-Gay Marriage Message on Cake” [Dale Carpenter, Peter Tatchell, Lee v. Ashers]

Feds and states bless ABA’s gatekeeper status in law school accreditation. Why?

The American Bar Association (ABA)

has been granted monopoly status over the accreditation of law schools by the U.S. Department of Education (for purposes of determining eligibility for federal student loans) and nearly all state supreme courts (for purposes of determining eligibility to take the bar exam). Monopoly status is inevitably prone to abuse, and in recent decades the ABA has gone far beyond its original mission of establishing minimum standards for legal education to protect the public. Professor John Baker maintains that “the ABA is an ideological organization forcing its ideology into the standards on accreditation.”

I found while researching my book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule, that the ABA’s and AALS’s (Association of American Law Schools) role as accreditors has had far-reaching structural effects on law schools and probably ideological effects too, as well as restricting competition and discouraging innovation. I agree with Mark Pulliam that the federal government and states should refrain from artificially promoting these groups’ gatekeeper role or, worse, conferring monopoly status on them [Law and Liberty]

Good riddance, Persuader Rule

“The U.S. Labor Department on Tuesday officially rescinded the Obama administration’s ‘persuader rule’ that would have required lawyers and consultants to report on advice given to employers about persuading employees on union issues.” Among its numerous other problems, the rule drew fire from the American Bar Association and other groups as an infringement on lawyer-client confidentiality. [ABA Journal, earlier]

Accreditation process pulls law schools leftward

Mark Pulliam at Liberty and Law explores a theme I raised in Schools for Misrule: the ABA accreditation process for law schools is ideologically fraught and pushes the schools toward certain prescribed views of social justice. Even for well-established, high-ranking schools the process can be an arduous one, propelled by “what the ABA euphemistically calls ‘site visits,’ but would more commonly be referred to as compliance inspections.” And the standards are not neutral — in particular not Standard 206, which establishes “diversity and inclusion” as one of the association’s accreditation desiderata. Under that standard, site visitors and reviewers investigate the institution’s “commitment” to diversity, evaluating that commitment in light of the “totality of the law school’s actions and the results achieved.”

Schools are required, for example, to “create a favorable environment for students from underrepresented groups” The vagueness and open-endedness of such standards — might it contribute to a less favorable environment, for example, for a school to be short on course offerings or visiting speakers in a given identity-related area? — is sure to “invite subjective application, prompting schools to ‘over-comply’ to avoid an adverse finding.” No wonder schools cluster at the safe end by maintaining well-staffed diversity and inclusion departments, prioritizing demographic over intellectual diversity in faculty hiring, and cultivating attention to identity categories in student life. The piece kicks off what Pulliam says will be a periodic series.

ABA sticks up for lawyers’ and clients’ privacy

In the name of curtailing money laundering and the risk of terrorist finance, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have introduced a bill that would require extensive reporting on the ownership of small corporations and limited liability companies. Provisions of the law “would regulate many lawyers and law firms as financial institutions under the Bank Secrecy Act,” notes the ABA Journal, and require them “to gather extensive beneficial ownership information on businesses when they incorporate. The information would be held and disclosed on request to many governmental agencies and financial institutions.” The businesses themselves would also face direct reporting and regulatory burdens.

The ABA is opposing provisions in this bill on the ground that they would infringe on traditional attorney-client privilege. “Concerns about erosion of attorney-general privilege have played a role in resisting numerous bad regulatory and prosecutorial initiatives in recent years,” I write in a new Cato piece. “Now if only the rest of us who are not lawyers could get someone to stand up so effectively against the government on behalf of our privacy interests.”

Ontario lawyers resist mandatory promote-equality pledge

Lakehead University law faculty member Ryan Alford has filed a challenge to the new Ontario bar rule requiring all lawyers to prepare and submit personal “Statement of Principles” avowing their support for equality, diversity, and inclusion. The rules have drawn fire across Canada as compelled speech, but the bar association turned down a request that individual lawyers be allowed exemptions if they believe the requirement violates their conscience. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty noting the parallels with Model Rule 8.4 (g), adopted by the ABA in 2016, which makes a vaguely defined category of discriminatory conduct, including speech, the subject of discipline as “professional misconduct,” and which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warns would be unconstitutional if adopted into state regulation. I write:

The “Test Acts” were a series of enactments of England that excluded from public office and penalized in other ways those who would not swear allegiance to the prevailing religious tenets of the day. There is no good reason to bring back their principles.

Full piece here. More: Scott Greenfield.

In Ontario, a new Test Act?

According to the Ontario bar association, all lawyers “must prepare and submit a personal ‘Statement of Principles’ attesting that we value and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.” Bad idea: “In free countries, law governs actions rather than expressions of beliefs. People can be required to obey the speed limit and pay taxes, but they may not be compelled to declare that the speed limits are properly set or that taxes are a good thing. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that forcing someone to express opinions that they do not have ‘is totalitarian and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada, even for the repression of the most serious crimes.'” [Bruce Pardy, National Post]