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Mandatory Membership in State Bar of Wisconsin Constitutional

April 29, 2022, 6:56 PM

The First Amendment rights of Wisconsin lawyers aren’t violated by their mandatory membership in the state bar, the Seventh Circuit said Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court specifically upheld mandatory bar dues and membership in Keller v. State Bar of California, the opinion by Chief Judge Diane S. Sykes said.

But Wisconsin attorney Schuyler File argued that Keller was implicitly overruled by Janus v. Am. Fed’n of State, Cty. & Mun. Emps. Council. Janus overruled Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., upon which the holding in Keller was based, he said.

“The tension between Janus and Keller is hard to miss,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said. “But it’s not our role to decide whether” Keller remains good law, it said.

The court noted that it and every other federal circuit to address the issue has refused to find that Janus overruled Keller. Even the Supreme Court has declined recent opportunities to revisit Keller in light of Janus, it said.

Keller remains binding precedent, and File must seek relief from the Supreme Court, the appellate court said.

Judges Diane P. Wood and David F. Hamilton joined the opinion.

Liberty Justice Center represented File. Foley & Lardner LLP and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office represented the defendants.

The case is Schuyler v. Martin, 2022 BL 148568, 7th Cir., No. 20-2387, 4/29/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com