Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Suit Over Lawyer Dues Used to Oppose Shared Parenting

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has weighed in on a lawsuit aimed at the State Bar Association of North Dakota over that organization’s use of legally-required lawyer dues to engage in political activities against a shared parenting measure in the 2014 election cycle.

The plaintiff in the suit, Bismarck attorney Arnold Fleck, originally argued that it was unconstitutional to use dues he’s required by law to pay to fund political activities he disagrees with. He had a point, which the SBAND acknowledged by issuing prorated refunds to any lawyer in the state who requested them. They also modified their policies to disclose so-called “non-germane” spending of dues money and allow lawyers to reduce their dues payments accordingly.

But Fleck persisted in his lawsuit, arguing that this amounted to requiring him to opt-out of funding for things he doesn’t agree with.

A federal district court dismissed his case and, on appeal, so did the 8th circuit arguing that the SBAND’s policies now amount to a sort of opt-in. From the conclusion of their opinion issued today, which you can read in full below:

SBAND was wrong to use member dues in 2014 to engage in political activity without first getting some sort of opt-in from members, but since then their policy changes seem to have satisfied the problem.

At least in the eyes of the courts.

Tony Weiler, executive director of the State Bar Association of North Dakota, said he had no comment.

Here’s the full opinion:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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