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Lawyers May Not Have To Pay State Bar Membership Dues

Jan 23, 2014

“Right-to-work for lawyers” bill introduced in Lansing

By Jake Neher

Attorneys would no longer be required to pay membership dues to the State Bar of Michigan under a new bill in Lansing.

In 2012, the state made it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, introduced a bill Thursday that would extend that same idea to lawyers. He says the State Bar has become a political organization, and its members should also have the choice to leave.

“There’s lots of different things that their members have disagreed with that we’ve heard from their members that said we’d like the freedom not to be able to associate with that,” Meekhof told reporters Thursday.

The State Bar has expressed concerns about a number of high-profile bills that were recently signed into law. Those include an overhaul of the state’s Court of Claims and Sen. Meekhof’s legislation to protect donors that bankroll so-called “issue ads”.

Under Senate Bill 743, Meekhof says the State Bar would still probably be able to collect money from all attorneys, regardless of their membership status, for some services.

“They still would have to be in and pay in their section dues, some of the things that help the disciplinary actions on bad lawyers, because that is one of their tasks right now,” said Meekhof.

It would ultimately be up to the Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether the State Bar could still collect money from non-members for those services.

The future of the bill in the state Legislature is uncertain. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville suggested he was not eager to take it up.

The State Bar could not immediately comment on the legislation.