HOUSTON – By remaining silent, Randy Sorrels, the new president of the State Bar of Texas, declined to continue an opinion request made by his predecessor, which tasked the attorney general to answer whether the collection of mandatory dues is constitutional.
Earlier this year, former bar president Joe Longley asked the AG’s office if 76,000, due-paying attorneys have the right to vote on the election of Texas Young Lawyers Association officials.
Sorrels began serving as president last month. On June 14, the AG’s office sent a letter to him asking whether he wished to proceed with Longley’s opinion request.
A second letter was sent on June 27, stating that the office had not received a response from him.
“Because we have not received confirmation from you regarding your desire to continue with the opinion request, we will consider the request withdrawn,” the letter states.
State Bar members must pay mandatory dues that support TYLA and legislative programs – programs that not all members wish to support, as made evident by a lawsuit filed in March.
The suit, brought by a handful of Texas attorneys against the State Bar Board of Directors, argues that compelling attorneys to pay dues in order to fund “diversity” initiatives and legislative programs violates their First Amendment rights.
And while Attorney General Ken Paxton may no longer be able to author an opinion on the issue, his stance was made pretty clear in a brief filed in support of the plaintiffs in April, which states the Bar is violating the rights of members by compelling financial support for ideological and political activities without their affirmative consent.
The current issue came to life following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which returned First Amendment rights to public sector workers by finding that millions of public servants no longer have to pay a government union as a condition of employment.
Under Janus, the plaintiff attorneys argue that it violates the First Amendment to compel attorneys to financially support the Bar in order for them to engage in their chosen profession.
AG request No. RQ-0265-KP