Bloomberg Law
June 1, 2020, 1:49 PM

Supreme Court Rejects Mandatory Wisconsin Bar Membership Case

Melissa Heelan Stanzione
Melissa Heelan Stanzione

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear a case arguing that mandatory state bar memberships violate First Amendment free-speech guarantees.

In rejecting the petition filed by two Wisconsin lawyers, the high court on Monday let stand a 2019 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirming an earlier dismissal of the case. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas dissented from the denial.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin had based its ruling on the high court’s 1990 decision in Keller v. State Bar of California, which allowed states to compel bar membership.

In their petition, Adam Jarchow and Michael D. Dean said they disagree with the Wisconsin bar’s speech on many issues, including criminal-justice, legal–services corporation funding, felon voting rights, immigration law, and the death penalty,

They said they “oppose being compelled to financially support it with their membership dues.”

The attorney-petitioners argued that Keller and another mandatory bar case, Lathrop v. Donohue, can’t be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s 2018 holding in Janus v. AFSCME, that state laws compelling public employees to subsidize the speech of labor unions violate the First Amendment.

The case is Jarchow v. State Bar of Wisconsin, U.S., No. 19-831, review denied 6/1/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at; Rebekah Mintzer at; Andrew Harris at