State Bar's Role in Lobbying

The Arizona Supreme Court recently modified Rule 32 to clarify the State Bar's role in lobbying. The modification reads:

The State Bar shall conduct any lobbying activities in compliance with Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990). Additionally, a member who objects to particular State Bar lobbying activities may request a refund of the portion of the annual fee allocable to those activities at the end of the membership year.

The State Bar conducts lobbying activities to promote bills drafted by our sections to improve the practice of law. These bills are approved by the Board of Governors before lobbying activiity begins. The State Bar then finds legislators willing to sponsor these bills.

The State Bar also is involved with bar associations nationwide to lobby for funding the Legal Services Corporation, which seeks to ensure equal access to justice to all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.

Keller v. State Bar of California 496 U.S. 1 (1990) requires that mandatory bars may not use fees for political or ideological activities that do not directly promote the core interests of the mandatory bar, interests of the legal profession, improve the administration of justice, or promote advancements in Arizona jurisprudence.

This does not mean that a mandatory bar in the United States cannot take a position on an issue outside of those areas, only that it may be required to refund the portion of fees spent lobbying on those issues that do not meet the Keller standard. Members of those bars have the option of challenging the positions taken to determine if a portion of their fees should be refunded. 

As directed by the court, the State Bar of Arizona uses what is called a "Keller-Pure" approach regarding lobbying and political issues. Our Bar gives every issue a Keller analysis before the organization takes a position. If it is determined that the issue would not pass the Keller standard, the State Bar of Arizona's bylaws do not allow it to take a position or use staff time on behalf of a proposal.  

You can read the Keller v. State Bar of California opinion here. There are additional cases which modified the Keller standards since the initial case was decided.

The State Bar Board of Governors Keller Refund Request Policy and Procedures are available here.

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