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Board OKs Keller dues reduction

On the heels of unanimously amending its policy for calculating Keller-dues reductions, the Wisconsin State Bar Board of Governors also approved a new Keller dues amount.

The Keller dues reduction is the amount lawyers can choose to take back from their dues to avoid paying bar activities that are political or do not go toward regulating the profession or improving legal services.

Last year’s reduction amounted to $7.75. The reduction for 2019 was $9.95, which was $2.50 more than last year. The board approved the new amount on Friday afternoon.

The amount is higher in part because of a policy the board approved unanimously in the morning after meeting in closed session to discuss a petition brought by Steve Levine, a Madison attorney.

The bar voted on Friday to adopt a policy involving the calculation of the Keller dues amount that will allow members to take back expenses incurred from all direct lobbying of the Wisconsin Legislature and Congress. That policy was used in calculating the $9.95 reduction that the board eventually approved.

The policy was in part prompted by Levine’s proposal.

Levine, a frequent critic of the bar and a past bar president, has proposed putting more restrictions on how the bar can spend members’ dues, which are mandatory. He has also proposed requiring the bar to prepare one budget for proposed expenditures of mandatory bar dues and a separate one for voluntary bar dues.

Under current case law, as well as state and federal law, state bars may spend mandatory dues only on activities related to the regulation of lawyers and improvement of the legal profession.

Levine has contended that some of the bar’s lobbying work, including its advocacy for an increase in judicial salaries and a change to the term lengths of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, goes beyond what’s allowed.

The justices held a public hearing on the proposal last year but have yet to take further action on it.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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