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State Bar mulls dues policy, OKs 2017 Keller reduction

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 1, 2016//

State Bar mulls dues policy, OKs 2017 Keller reduction

By: Erika Strebel, [email protected]//February 1, 2016//

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After objections from government and out-of-state attorneys, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors is retooling a proposal meant to help ensure dues recommendations are regular and predictable.

The policy was presented Friday to the State Bar’s finance committee. Before the initial vote, Dan Rinzel, president of the nonresident-lawyers division, offered a word of caution concerning attorneys who live outside Wisconsin and are thus not required to be bar members.

“I hope that this doesn’t mean that it is OK to increase dues slightly over time,” he said. “If you keep raising dues you’ll incentivize 25 percent of our group to stop paying dues altogether.”

The organization’s latest dues increase, the first to be adopted in 10 years, came in 2015.

Others, including Miriam Horwitz, president of the bar’s government lawyers division, expressed concerns that the recommended policy seems to make no mention of reducing spending and only discusses the possibility of higher dues. She said members of her division urged her not to support it.

“If you read the policy, you do not translate the actual emphasis on looking at all avenues or revenue and trimming the spending side,” Horwitz said. “There’s nothing really that tells the bar that what we’re really up to is reaching a balanced budget … so that the perception this policy generates is to increase dues progressively over time.”

The Board of Governors voted 21-20 to approve the policy on Friday. However, after a lunch break, Sherry Coley, bar secretary and finance committee member, moved for the board to reconsider the proposal and send it back to the finance committee to make the language changes Horwitz and other governors had called for. The board approved the motion.

• In other business, the board also on Friday unanimously approved a $7.25 Keller dues reduction for 2017, which was $2 more than was granted in 2016. The amount represents what members may choose to withhold in order to avoid supporting the bar’s various lobbying and political endeavors.

Past president Steve Levine, who is a party in pending arbitration over the 2016 Keller dues amount, said before Friday’s vote that it might turn out to be less expensive for the bar to take all legislative lobbying into account when calculating the Keller dues amount. He said the answer will depend partly on the results of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Friedichs v. California Teachers Association, the justices are being asked to decide whether public employees who are not a union member should have to affirmatively opt out of paying fees that pay for activities other than collective bargaining. The plaintiffs in that case have argued that public employees should instead be given the opportunity to pay those fees.

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