The US Supreme Court on Monday denied a request to hear Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin, a case concerning the constitutionality of laws requiring practicing attorneys to be bar association members and pay dues to the bar association.
The suit was filed by two Wisconsin attorneys who argued that a requirement to be members of the bar association and pay dues violated their First Amendment rights. The case relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s ruling two years ago in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which held that those who are represented by a union but are not members of that union cannot be required to pay a fee to cover the costs of contract negotiations.
The suit alleged that the holding in Janus overturned the precedent of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which affirmed the constitutionality of laws requiring those represented by a union but not members of the union to pay dues. By extension, they also argue that the holding adopted in Keller v. State Bar of California that “compelled association” of state bar was justified by the “State’s interest in regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services” is also overturned by the ruling in Janus.
The lower courts turned down requests to hear the case on the grounds that the Supreme Court was the only court that could overturn its previous ruling in Keller. Monday’s decision means that the longstanding precedent allowing these laws will continue to remain in place.
The decision to deny review of the case was accompanied by a dissent written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. In his dissent, Thomas argued that the court’s decision to overrule Abood, which formed the foundation of the holding in Keller, cast significant doubt on the court’s prior ruling involving bar dues. Therefore the court should reexamine whether Keller is a sound precedent.