Lawyer Fighting for First Amendment Rights Gets His Day in Court
New Orleans attorney Randy Boudreaux will finally get his day in court when his challenge to Louisiana’s mandatory bar membership requirement for Louisiana lawyers goes to trial on June 21, 2022. He is represented by lawyers from the Pelican Institute’s Center for Justice, the Goldwater Institute, and Loyola College of Law professor Dane Ciolino. Numerous challenges to mandatory bar membership have been filed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Janus v. AFSCME in 2018, but we believe that Randy’s case is the first to go to trial.
How did we get to this point? In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus that the First Amendment prohibits governments from making their employees pay union fees, which are used to fund unions’ political speech, to keep their jobs. Similarly, attorneys in Louisiana and 29 other states must join a bar association and pay dues to practice law. Many states with mandatory bar associations, including Louisiana, use membership dues to fund political speech unrelated to law practice in violation of the First Amendment. Randy objects to funding the Louisiana State Bar Association’s (LSBA) political speech, so he filed this lawsuit in August of 2019.
In early 2020, the district court dismissed Randy’s lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a viable claim. However, last July, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal of Randy’s claims and remanded the case to the district court for trial. The Fifth Circuit found that Randy has a viable claim that the Louisiana State Bar Association’s (LSBA) political and legislative activity goes beyond what’s constitutionally permissible.
The specific activity to which Randy objects is the LSBA’s use of bar dues to engage in political and ideological legislative advocacy. In other words, the LSBA used member dues to lobby for or against policy positions at the legislature that are political in nature and unrelated to the practice of law. Since at least 2007, the LSBA has taken a position on more than 500 bills filed in the Louisiana legislature, the majority of which have nothing to do with law practice or regulating the legal profession.
Randy’s case is important because a ruling in his favor could vindicate the First Amendment rights of attorneys in the 30 states that compel attorneys to join and pay dues to a bar association as a condition of practicing law.