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Will Janus Only Apply to Unions?


I know I can’t wait for cases like this to get to the Supreme Court where Roberts and Friends can decide that the free speech definition used in Janus only applies to labor unions.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down earlier this year, two lawyers have sued the Oregon State Bar alleging that mandatory dues infringe on their constitutional rights.

Diane Gruber and Mark Runnels argue in a suit filed last Wednesday in federal court that paying compulsory dues infringes on their First Amendment rights because it helps pay for political and ideological speech they disagree with.

“This isn’t an attack on the state bar,” attorney Michael L. Spencer, who filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs, told the Oregonian. “The requirement to be a member of the bar violates our free speech and free association rights under the Janus decision.”

Decided in June, Janus v. American Federation of State and Country Municipal Employees found that public employees cannot be compelled to pay union dues if they opt out of union membership, even if they reap benefits created by the union.

The current suit says lawyers should still be licensed, but “that’s different from membership with the bar, which implies somebody speaks for you,” Spencer said. The Oregon State Bar is a regulatory agency.

If the argument to expand Janus is unsuccessful, the lawyers also claim they are owed damages for dues collected that supported political or ideological work. In a 1990 decision, Keller v. State Bar of California, the high court found that mandatory members of state bar associations have a First Amendment right not to subsidize political or ideological activities.

I have no opinion on the case at hand. But I fully expect this court, like the Fuller Court before it, to issue capricious decisions based on extremely poor logic that restrict unions ability to operate but refuse to apply the same logic to any other part of society.

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