Boudreaux v. Louisiana State Bar Association

Boudreaux v. Louisiana State Bar Association

Lawyers Should Not Be Forced to Join State Bars that Use Their Dues to Lobby 

The Story

Randy Boudreaux just wants to practice law. He’s been doing so since 1995 in downtown New Orleans. But because Louisiana is a mandatory bar state, Randy must become a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and pay dues that the bar has used over the years to advance political interests.

Since at least 2007, the LSBA has taken a position on more than 500 bills filed in the Louisiana legislature. Attorneys are required to join the organization to practice law in Louisiana, and the LSBA uses these mandatory dues for its advocacy. In 2019, the Pelican Center for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Louisiana attorney Randy Boudreaux alleging that the mandatory membership requirement and use of compelled dues for political and ideological speech violates Randy’s First Amendment rights.

Since 2019, attorneys in several states have filed lawsuits challenging their bar associations’ mandatory membership requirement. Oregon attorney Daniel Crowe challenged his state’s mandatory membership requirement after the Oregon Bar used membership dues to print political statements in its journal. In Oklahoma, attorney Mark Schell filed a similar challenge because his state bar used member dues to oppose tort reform legislation and to print political statements in its bar journal. In both cases, the appellate courts ruled that their claims could proceed to trial because neither the Supreme Court nor the circuit courts have ever considered whether mandatory bar membership violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of association.

However, both courts ruled that they were bound by Keller v. State Bar of California, a Supreme Court decision that determined that the First Amendment allows bar associations to use dues for activities relevant to the legal profession. In Keller, the Court held that bar associations must follow the same constitutional rule for compelled dues as public sector unions. Abood v. Detroit Board of Education provided the rule for the Keller decision, but Abood was recently overruled by the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, which requires dues to be subjected to exacting First Amendment scrutiny.

Since Abood was overruled by the Janus decision, the basis for the Keller decision is no longer applicable, so Keller is now on a collision course with the recent Janus ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court may hear one of those challenges soon.

“Right now, membership in the Bar Association is forced and I’ve always been bothered by this since the bar can take these political stances while still speaking on your behalf as a lawyer,” says Randy, “This is one of the issues where there’s clearly a violation of individual autonomy and freedom of speech. . . Freedom of speech and freedom of association is something that I’ve never wavered on. I’ve been consistently fighting for limited government and more individual autonomy. I’ve tried to work for that whenever I can.”

The Latest

  • 5th Circuit Opinion. On November 13, 2023, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Randy’s First Amendment complaints about non-germane speech by the LSBA and granted Randy’s injunction. The case has been remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

The Timeline

  • Complaint. On August 1, 2019, the Pelican Institute, joined by attorneys from the Goldwater Institute and Loyola Professor Dane Ciolino, filed suit on behalf of Randy in the Eastern District of Louisiana. The case was assigned to the Honorable Lance Africk.
  • Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. On September 30, 2019, the LSBA filed a Motion to Dismiss the case. On October 25, 2019, Randy filed a Response in Opposition. On November 4, 2019, The LSBA filed a Reply.
  • District Court’s Order and Reasons. On January 13, 2020, the district court granted much of the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Randy appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 5th Circuit Appeal. On February 11, 2020, Randy filed a Notice of Appeal. On April 1, 2020, Randy filed an Opening Brief. On May 1, 2020, the LSBA filed an Appellees’ Brief. On May 22, 2020, Randy filed a Reply Brief. On March 4, 2021, the Fifth Circuit held Oral Argument on the matter. On July 2, 2021, the Fifth Circuit issued its Opinion, ruling in favor of Randy and remanding to the district court.
  • District Court Trial. On June 21, 2022, the district court held a bench trial. On August 8, 2022, the district court published its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, ruling in favor of the LSBA.
  • Second 5th Circuit Appeal. On September 6, 2022, Randy filed a Notice of Appeal. On November 22, 2022, Randy filed an Opening Brief. On January 12, 2023, the LSBA filed an Appellees’ Brief. On February 16, 2023, Randy filed a Reply Brief.
  • Oral Argument. On July 11, 2023, Oral Argument was held in the case at the Fifth Circuit.
  • 5th Circuit Opinion. On November 13, 2023, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Randy’s First Amendment complaints about non-germane speech by the LSBA and granted Randy’s injunction. The case has been remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

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The Center for Justice is a public-interest law firm that represents at no cost clients seeking to advance freedom and opportunity in Louisiana and the Fifth Circuit.

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