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North Carolina Lawyer’s Challenge to State Bar Dues Fails

Feb. 5, 2019, 6:45 PM

A federal district court can’t hear a North Carolina attorney’s constitutional challenge to his annual state bar dues.

The dues are a tax and federal courts don’t have jurisdiction to hear state tax disputes, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina said.

Even if the dues are described as an annual membership fee, they operate as a tax and the court still can’t hear the challenge, the opinion by Judge James C. Dever III said.

The court also dismissed Christopher Livingston’s selective prosecution challenge to his suspension from the practice of law on jurisdictional grounds. NCSB’s disciplinary proceedings are judicial proceedings and federal courts don’t have jurisdiction over appeals of state judicial proceedings, the court said.

Livingston’s claim his selective prosecution violated his civil rights didn’t alter the court’s conclusion. That claim is inextricably intertwined with the issues in his disciplinary proceeding and should have been raised there, it said.

Livingston represented himself. David R. Johnson, Raleigh, N.C., represented NCSB.

The case is Livingston v. N.C. State Bar, 2019 BL 35480, E.D.N.C., No. 7:18-CV-5-D, 2/4/19.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bloomberglaw.com

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