Applying Keller v. State Bar of California, 491 U.S. 1 (1990), the Fifth Circuit concluded that certain activities by the State Bar of Texas were not “germane” to the Bar’s accepted purpose, and thus held that their funding with bar dues violated the First Amendment.

In sum, the Bar is engaged in non-germane activities, so compelling the plaintiffs to join it violates their First Amendment rights. There are multiple other constitutional options: The Bar can cease engaging in nongermane activities; Texas can directly regulate the legal profession and create a voluntary bar association, like New York’s; or Texas can adopt a hybrid system, like California’s. But it may not continue mandating membership in the Bar as currently structured or engaging in its current activities.

The Court acknowledged the “weakened foundations” of Keller after the union-dues case of Janus v. Am. Fed. of State, County, & Municipal Employees, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), but concluded that it still framed the relevant issues in the context of a mandatory bar association. No. 20-50448 (July 2, 2021). The Texas Lawbook has written on the opinion. (The companion case of Boudreaux v. Louisiana State Bar Ass’n, No. 20-30086 (July 2, 2021), reversed a standing-based dismissal to a similar challenge to the activities of Louisiana’s state bar.)

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