Comment sought on State Bar task force report

The Report of the Task Force on the Role of the State Bar of Michigan was delivered recently to the Michigan Supreme Court and the court is seeking public comment on the findings.

The report recommends that the State Bar remain a mandatory organization.

It also recommends, among other things:

• All State Bar advocacy outside the judicial branch should be subject to a rigorous Keller process and the State Bar should emphasize a strict interpretation of Keller.

(The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Keller v State Bar of California, the court upheld mandatory bar membership in the interests of regulating the practice
of law and protecting the public, but added that mandatory bars may not use members’ dues to fund ideological activities that fall outside those interests).

• State Bar Sections that engage in legislative advocacy should do so only through separate entities not identified with the State Bar.

• State Bar’s regulatory services should be better integrated with the activities of the other attorney regulatory agencies.

• Governance of the State Bar through the Representative Assembly and the Board of Commissioners should be modified.

• Membership dues for inactive State Bar members should be reduced, inactive member reinstatement should be made more accessible and rational, and the Supreme Court should convene a special commission to review active and inactive licensing and recertification issues.

 The court is seeking public comment on whether the report adequately assesses the First Amendment problems concerning required membership in a bar association and whether the report provides a sufficient blueprint to ensure that the bar association’s ideological activities will not encroach on the First Amendment rights of members.

Comments regarding the report can be emailed to ADMcomment@courts.mi.gov.

To comment using U.S. mail, write to: Office of Administrative Counsel, PO Box 30052, Lansing, 48909.

The deadline for comments is Aug. 4.

The report is available online at courts.mi.gov/Courts/MichiganSupremeCourt (click on “Administrative Matters & Court Rules.”

Earlier this year Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced legislation supported by the Michigan Freedom Fund to make membership in the bar association voluntary.

Bar membership has been mandatory in Michigan since the 1930s and high court rulings have held that mandatory bar membership is a valid method of regulating the practice of law.

In February, the State Bar asked the Supreme Court to “further the discussion” in this area. At the same time, the Bar’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose Meekhof’s bill.

The court then created the task force and asked for a report by early June.

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