California Bar Journal
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Palmer Madden. "I think this is a reasonable solution."

The settlement brings to a close a 10-year legal battle over the use of mandatory bar fees to fund activities that were opposed by 41 California attorneys on First Amendment grounds.

In 1999, Judge England found the bar improperly used mandatory fees to pay for some programs, including areas such as access to justice, the conference of delegates and a program that provides attorneys as volunteer mentors to youthful parolees. However, the decision applied to the 1991 dues year only. England awarded $10 to each of the plaintiffs.

PLF initially launched a sweeping challenge to the use of mandatory fees to fund each of the bar's 30 program categories, including such core activities as attorney discipline.

The bar dropped its appeal of the case in January, primarily because it no longer uses member dues to fund activities that were considered controversial.

Madden said the bar no longer operates the way it did when the case was filed and he and the board opposed spending additional funds to fight any fee award. "We didn't want to spend any more money chasing an issue that has nothing to do with how the bar operates," he said.

PLF had sought $1.1 million in fees for some 4,800 hours of work it put into the case and sought a multiplier of two, raising the fee demand to almost $2.3 million. Multipliers can be awarded if a case is complex and breaks new constitutional ground, and if the winning side prevails.

PLF also brought the Keller case, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in a ruling which prohibits the bar from using mandatory member fees to pay for activities outside its core functions. As a result of that case, PLF won a fee award of $261,000 from the bar.