On Being Forced Into and Excluded from the Bar Association

I am a New Orleans law professor, lawyer, and card-carrying member of the Louisiana State Bar Association. For more than 30 years, I have enthusiastically volunteered hundreds of hours working on the bar association’s ethics committees and giving pro bono professionalism presentations to its members.

I would have gladly joined the association had I been given the choice. But I wasn’t. No one can work as a lawyer in Louisiana without joining. More than 20,000 other lawyers joined for that reason too. One of them, Randy Boudreaux, has sued the bar association because he believes that being forced to join an association to get a license to work violates his First Amendment right to freedom of association. He also believes that the association’s use of dues money to advance political positions unrelated to the practice of law violates the Constitution. I proudly represent Randy in this lawsuit, along with a team of extraordinary lawyers from the Pelican and Goldwater Institutes.

But that’s last month’s news. More recently, the bar association banned me from various activities. After I filed Randy’s lawsuit, it cancelled two of my long-scheduled ethics presentations due to “a conflict.” It also refused to reappoint me to its ethics code committee—a committee that I served on for 20 consecutive years. See Ciolino Emails with LSBA (Aug. 2019). These actions are astonishing to me as a lawyer and legal ethics professor.

I have simply sued the association as a lawyer representing a client. That’s what lawyers do. Black lawyers have represented the Klan and Jewish lawyers, neo-Nazis. But a lawyer’s representation does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s views. Look it up. The rules drafted by the association’s own professional conduct committee (on which I once served) say exactly that. See La. Rules of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.2(b). So, just because my client believes that the bar association is violating his constitutional rights doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree.

But I do. And that makes the association’s actions even worse. It has taken my mandatory dues money and then banned me from participating in its activities because it doesn’t like my views about the First Amendment. Can you see the irony? A state-sponsored organization is taking adverse action against a citizen because it doesn’t like the content of the citizen’s speech. Why, that sounds like (another) First Amendment issue, doesn’t it?

If anyone should understand the principles of law, ethics, and professionalism applicable to Louisiana lawyers it is, well, an association of Louisiana lawyers. But it just doesn’t get it. And every year, I write a check to pay for this sort of conduct. And every year I call myself a member. Can Mr. Boudreaux and I quit? We’ll see.

Reprinted from The Advocate Newspaper, October 30, 2019 (link to original here: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/opinion/letters/article_20051df6-f67b-11e9-ba03-0b879dab84fa.html).

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