State Bar Association Fees Overturned by US Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court has announced its decision supporting North Dakota lawyer Arnold Fleck. This Bismark, North Dakota, divorce lawyer said that he should not be forced to pay dues to the State Bar Association of North Dakota in order to practice law, and the United States Supreme Court agreed with him.

Earlier the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis ruled in favor of the State Bar Association of North Dakota arguing that the state had the right to determine who could practice law in their state. Fleck, represented by the Goldwater Institute, argued that being forced to join the organization made him give money to political ideas that he could not support.

The case dates back to when North Dakota voters were asked to support Measure 6. The measure would have presumed that each parent had an equal right to parent unless the court was shown compelling reasons why one parent should have their rights revoked. Fleck spent a lot of time and energy supporting Measure 6 that the voters did not pass. Meanwhile, the state bar association spent resources helping to defeat the measure.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Fleck in August 2017. In North Dakota, lawyers must pay an annual fee to the state bar for the right to practice law in the state. The lower court found that when Fleck wrote the check to pay the state bar, he opted-in knowing that part of his money might go to support causes that he did not agree with at the time.

Before the case went to court, the State Bar Association of North Dakota changed their rules to allow lawyers to opt out of non-germane expenses. Fleck argued that lawyers should instead have to opt-in to these expenses or their First Amendment rights were not protected. The United States Supreme Court agreed with Fleck.

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