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Home / David Ziemer / Election will show Wisconsin lawyers support voluntary bar

Election will show Wisconsin lawyers support voluntary bar

The ballots for state bar elections have now arrived. Approximately two-thirds of the state’s attorneys will throw them away, if previous elections provide an accurate forecast of the future. Of those who do vote, a little more than half will vote for one of the bar’s two candidates, and a little less than half will vote for Douglas Kammer, who is running on a one-issue platform: the end of the mandatory bar.

While Mr. Kammer will not receive a majority, I suspect he will get enough votes to win the election.

Of course, Mr. Kammer’s election won’t actually result in a voluntary bar. Only a radical reinterpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court, restoring the constitutional right to freedom of association, can accomplish that.

Nevertheless, the fact that two-thirds of Wisconsin’s attorneys care so little that they don’t bother to vote is telling. It doesn’t require much imagination to conclude that the vast majority of those attorneys are opposed to compulsory membership.

And those non-votes are on top of the nearly half of attorneys who will vote, and will vote for the one-issue candidate. It is clear what rank-and-file attorneys think of the Bar – two-thirds are indifferent, one-sixth are actively hostile.

And yet the Bar goes on, as if it really spoke for the membership. As the young people say, “whatever.” Next year, I imagine someone else will run on a platform of voluntary membership and win again.

And the year after that…. And the year after that…

We still won’t get the voluntary bar we want. But at least we can send an annual message: “You people don’t speak for us.”


  1. “While Mr. Kammer will not receive a majority, I suspect he will get enough votes to win the election.” Doesn’t that mean that a majority didn’t vote for a voluntary bar?

  2. Wow! What a biased article wholly based in unreality. If 33% of the membership votes, that would beat the 10% of eligible voters that voted in the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court election by 330%. Using said faulty logic, the 90% of Wisconsin citizens who could of voted but did not just don’t care either. Does anybody actually believe that any politician from W to Doyle actually “speaks for us?” Come on, take off the rose-colored glasses.

    I would say a large part of the problem is the disappointing coverage given to State Bar elections by the Wisconsin Law Journal. It used to cover Board of Governors elections. No more. It’s coverage of the SBW president-elect campaign has been perfunctory at best. Given the “Gableman” like campaign being run by Doug Kammer, you would think that would make a good article. His campaign statement – paid for by the bar association – makes all sorts of ridiculous claims. In one he implies that lawyers could save paying $500/year if we only had a voluntary bar. This is the kind of unprofessional conduct that makes him suspect. Kammer knows bar dues are only $224/year and the rest consists of Wis. Sup Court assessments. But that does not stop him from trying to dupe lawyers into believing they could save $500/year if we only had a voluntary bar. He claims the bar does not lobby. Guess what! It does! He attacks the bar for not opposing caps on medical malpractice awards, even though the bar is on record and has been for years in opposing them. His gross ignorance of the bar and what it does shows his true character. If Mr. Kammer has to play games to prove his point, then I want nothing to do with him as a bar leader and neither should anybody else.

  3. myob, i agree with your math. a majority of those who do vote will vote for one of the two candidates who support a mandatory bar.

    the point i’m trying to make is that i think we can infer that the vast majority of the roughly 2/3 of lawyers who don’t even bother to vote in bar elections would support a voluntary bar.

    i think it’s a reasonable inference.

  4. let me rephrase that. i don’t think those 2/3 would support a voluntary bar any more than a mandatory one we have now, and to which they are indifferent.

    i think they would vote to oppose the current mandatory bar, if they could be bothered to vote.

  5. “The high rate of participation in the voluntary bar should be compared to the high percentage of lawyers who objected to the continuation of the unified bar. In 1979 after the Bar refused to hold a petitioned-for referendum relating to unification, several bar members financed an independent vote of the membership on the unification question. Sixty per cent of those voting favored a voluntary bar. Matter of Discontinuation of Wisconsin State Bar, 93 Wis.2d 385, 386, 286 N.W.2d 601 (1980).”
    Matter of State Bar of Wisconsin, 169 Wis.2d 21, 485 N.W.2d 225, 232, n. 11 (1992) Abrahamson, J., dissenting

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