By Kelly Caplan
BridgeTower Media Newswires
After a Michigan lawyer failed in her challenge to the requirement that she join the State Bar of Michigan and pay dues supporting advocacy activities with which she disagreed, she vowed to appeal to the highest court in the land.
On April 4, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the case. Over the past two years, the high court has denied petitions in seven cases challenging the constitutionality of integrated bars.
Last July, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Taylor v. Buchanan, found that two U.S. Supreme Court cases were right on point and foreclosed her challenge. The Taylor case was the latest challenge to a mandatory state bar and its use of dues money.
About 30 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory bars.
“We are pleased to see an end to this case. As an integrated bar, Michigan attorneys are both licensed and self-governed through the State Bar of Michigan. This decision … ensures that the State Bar will continue to serve and protect the public, help the state’s justice system evolve and improve and advance the legal profession,” Dana Warnez, president of the SBM Board of Commissioners, said in a news release.
The cases that Lucille Taylor questioned are Lathrop v. Donohue, a 1961 case from Wisconsin, and the 1990 decision in Keller v. State Bar of California. In both decisions, the high court affirmed the right of state bars to require mandatory membership and to assess dues.
In Keller, the court said the bar could use dues money to fund activity “germane” to legal regulation. The Keller court relied heavily on Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in its reasoning; Abood involved use of mandatory union dues. And there’s the rub: In 2018, the Supreme Court overruled Abood in a case called Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.
Sixth Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore summed up the argument this way: “According to Taylor, because Janus overruled Abood, and Abood was the foundation upon which the Court built Keller, we need not follow Keller (and, by association, Lathrop) here and are free to consider anew her constitutional claims.”
The court disagreed, Moore wrote. The Sixth Circuit said “the district court correctly concluded that Lathrop and Keller continue to bind the lower courts despite the Court’s ruling in Janus.” The majority opinion in Janus “made no mention of Keller (or Lathrop) in overruling Abood,” she said.
Moore wrote, “To Taylor’s credit, she acknowledges that Lathrop and Keller are an insurmountable hurdle if they remain good law,” and that was the conclusion by the Sixth Circuit.
Taylor was represented by the conservative Mackinac Center Law Foundation.