Can Bar Use Compulsory Membership Dues to Fund Lobbying Activities ?
In Florida Bar re Alper, No. 84,615 (Fla. Jan. 30, 1995) (unpublished order) petitioners argued that the Bar's use of compulsory membership dues to fund its campaign that sought to place the issue of merit selection and retention before the state's voters violated their rights to freedom of expression and association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
The petitioners in the 1995 Alper case relied primarily on this Court's opinions in Florida Bar re Schwarz, 552 So. 2d 1094 (Fla. 1989), and Florida Bar re Frankel, 581 So. 2d 1294 (Fla. 1991), as support for their request for injunctive relief.
The court found the argument based on those two cases lacking in merit five years ago and do the same today, with a brief explanation.
In Schwarz we attempted to more clearly define the boundaries within which the Bar may properly operate to engage in informational and issue-directed campaigns.
The court considered recommendations and comments provided by the Judicial Council, and specifically adopted the recommendation that the Bar be permitted to engage in those activities "relating to the improvement of the functioning of the courts, judicial efficacy and efficiency." Schwarz, 552 So. 2d at 1095.
In Schwarz the court also adopted the Judicial Council's recommendations regarding four other areas in which the Bar could use compulsory membership dues to fund lobbying activities: questions concerning the regulation and discipline of attorneys; increasing the availability of legal services to society; regulation of attorneys' client trust accounts; and the education, ethics, competence, integrity, and regulation as a body, of the legal profession. See Schwarz, 552 So. 2d at 1095.