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Lawyer loses challenge to mandatory membership in group

July 16, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to a policy that requires lawyers join the State Bar of Michigan.

Lucille Taylor said the group’s use of her dues for advocacy activities violates her right to free speech, among other objections.

But the appeals court, 3-0, said the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that mandatory membership as a condition of practicing law doesn’t violate freedom of association. The Supreme Court said in another case that bar associations can use dues without violating free speech.

Taylor was chief counsel under Gov. John Engler and a top Republican lawyer in the Legislature. She argued that a 2018 decision in favor of public employees who don’t want to join a union would help her.

“The speech claim would prevail if an integrated bar association used mandatory membership fees to fund non-germane political or ideological activity without providing adequate opt-out procedures,” Judge Amul Thapar said Thursday.

Taylor conceded that the State Bar of Michigan’s activities don’t cross that line, Thapar said.