by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The First Amendment guarantees every American’s freedom of speech and freedom of association. That means we all get to choose what we will and won’t say, and what groups we will and won’t join. It also means we all get to decide to what political groups we will and won’t give our money.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. But, in Louisiana and 29 other states, some people—those who practice law—are being denied their rights not to speak, not to associate with a group against their will and not to pay for others’ political advocacy. In these states, the government forces lawyers to join and pay dues to bar associations to be allowed to pursue their chosen profession.
The bar associations these lawyers are forced to join and pay aren’t government regulatory bodies; they don’t just make sure attorneys are qualified and behave ethically, as one might expect. Instead, they’re trade associations, and all too often they use members’ mandatory dues to advocate for and against public policies, which may or may not have anything to do with the practice of law. This means lawyers in these states are being forced to pay for other people’s political and ideological speech—something the First Amendment virtually never allows. …
… There’s no excuse for this. Today, at least 18 states regulate lawyers without forcing them to join a bar association or pay for other people’s politics. Louisiana and all the other states could—and should—do so as well.