|Only days after a superior court judge ruled that State Bar dues were
improperly spent on political activities eight years ago, a federal appellate court upheld
the bar's right to compel membership of all practicing California attorneys.
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a suit by Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, and two
other lawmakers in which they contended forced membership in the bar violated their First
Amendment right of freedom of association.
The three said the bar endorsed four bills in 1997 that they opposed, including an
increase in the damage limit for medical malpractice and a gay rights bill. Because they
are required to belong to the State Bar in order to practice law in California, they said
they were associated in the public eye with views they found objectionable.
U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell dismissed their suit in Sacramento, noting that
lawyers have the right to a refund of bar dues spent on political activities. Burrell said
the public is unlikely to attribute the bar's positions to each of its members.
In an unrelated case, the bar's board of governors was considering whether to appeal a
Sacramento judge's ruling that it improperly spent member dues on political and
ideological activities in 1991.
It also was awaiting a second phase of trial in Brosterhous v. State Bar to determine
the amount of refund plaintiffs will receive. The refunds will be granted only to the 40
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Morrison England ruled in August that mandatory bar
dues may be spent only on activities related to the licensing and discipline of lawyers
and on administrative costs.
Other activities, such as lobbying the legislature or sponsoring outreach and social
programs such as mentoring troubled youth, must be paid for by voluntary dues, the judge
State Bar President Raymond C. Marshall said the suit examined the bar's activities in
1991, not 1999, and that virtually everything ordered in the suit has been addressed.
The bar's dues bill signed by Gov. Davis last month restricts lobbying and prohibits
the use of mandatory dues for activities such as the Conference of Delegates and the