A Utah lawyer has teamed up with the Goldwater Institute in a lawsuit contesting the Utah Bar Association’s requirement that she pay fees for political speech and activities she does not support.
Amy Pomeroy explains in the complaint that to practice law, she must join the Utah State Bar and pay the fees.
“Pomeroy has seen the Utah State Bar use her mandatory fees to lobby the state legislature and to publish viewpoints she’d rather not promote,” the Goldwater Institute said. “In 2019, for example, the Utah State Bar lobbied the state legislature to exempt lawyers from a proposed tax on professional services. And in its Utah Bar Journal, the State Bar has recently published statements that take or publicize positions on current political and ideological controversies.”
Her lawsuit argues there are dozens of other states that successfully regulate the legal profession “without infringing attorneys’ First Amendment rights, and there’s no reason Utah couldn’t do so as well.”
The institute says the bar associations are “trade” groups, and “all too often, they use members’ mandatory dues to take positions on controversial legislation, and to publish political and ideological speech, which might or might not have anything to do with the practice of law.”
That results in lawyers being forced to pay for others’ political agendas, which the First Amendment does not allow.
The institute explains it already has fought similar cases in Oregon, Oklahoma and Louisiana. In the Oregon case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the challenge could continue. In Oklahoma, the case is before the 10th Circuit, and in Louisiana, the 5th Circuit is to rule.
Yet another case challenged North Dakota’s mandatory bar association membership and payments.
“Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court should hear one of these cases and declare that lawyers have the same First Amendment rights as everyone else and can’t be made to pay for other people’s politics just to pursue their profession,” the institute explained.
“In fact, there is no good reason why Amy Pomeroy and other Utah attorneys should be forced to give money to the Utah State Bar at all. In at least 20 states, attorneys aren’t forced to join a bar association or pay money to a bar association that can engage in political speech—but the state still regulates attorneys, and attorneys still pay for the cost of that regulation. If those other states can regulate the practice of law without forcing attorneys to surrender their First Amendment rights, then so can Utah and all the other states.
“In this case, the Goldwater Institute seeks to (1) eliminate the requirements that attorneys join and pay fees to the Utah State Bar and become members of the Utah Bar Foundation as a condition of practicing law; or at least (2) obtain an injunction prohibiting the Utah State Bar from collecting mandatory fees until it enacts better safeguards to ensure that such fees aren’t used for political and ideological speech that isn’t germane to improving the quality of legal services and regulating the legal profession, as Supreme Court precedent requires.”
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