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Supreme Court dismisses voluntary State Bar proposal

For the second time in less than a year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shot down a proposal to create a voluntary State Bar.

On Monday, the court voted 4-3 to dismiss a petition spearheaded by Madison attorneys Steve Levine and Jim Thiel, who sought to abolish the mandatory membership requirement of the organization.

Though disappointed, Thiel said the court’s vote did include the potential of forming a review committee to evaluate the performance of the mandatory bar.

If the court does that, one of the possible considerations is finding if the bar would function better as a voluntary organization, he said.

“This isn’t over,” Thiel said. “The court is going to consider forming a performance audit committee to see if the bar is carrying out its public function.”

Supreme Court Rule 10.10 allows the court to review state bar operations to ensure it is fulfilling its obligations to members, as well as the public.

Thiel said he expects that if the court does form a committee, it will do a comprehensive evaluation of bar operations, despite the fact that several justices have openly stated their preference for a mandatory bar.

“I don’t think the court plays that way,” he said. “I have confidence it would be a fair process.”

Monday’s action by the court denied the petition prior to a public hearing and marked the second time this year that it had dismissed a voluntary bar proposal.

In June, the court voted 5-2 to deny Levine and Thiel’s attempt to abolish the mandatory bar, on the grounds that the petition lacked specifics.

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