Keller v. California State Bar: Brief Summary
The petitioners in the case of Keller v. California State Bar were members of the State Bar of California. These individuals, led by Keller, sued the Respondent, the SBC, on the grounds that the State Bar Commission was using their membership dues to finance activities that the majority of members were opposed to. The case of Keller v. California State Bar therefore evaluated when membership fees are compulsory, can said members may be able to reject how their dues are utilized by the underlying agency.
Keller v. California State Bar: The Facts
The case of Keller v. California State Bar featured the respondent who was an integrated bar association, meaning that membership is required to practice law within the state of California. The respondent in Keller v. California State Bar chose to use its membership dues to fund politically charged activities. In response to these funding efforts, the petitioners in Keller v. California State Bar filed suit alleging that the California State Bar’s decision to pay for said activities was in direct violation of their First Amendment Constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court of the state of California initially rejected the Petitioners’ claims on the basis that the Respondent is a state agency and therefore can spend funds for any purpose within the state’s powers. The case of Keller v. California State Bar eventually made its way to the United States Supreme Court where certiorari was granted.
The primary issues revolving around Keller v. California State Bar was whether compulsory membership, as a condition to procure licensing, requires members to follow the choices of the underlying association.
Keller v. California State Bar: The Decision
The case of Keller v. California State Bar was heard by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Mr. Rehnquist and his fellow associates ultimately reversed the decision laid forth by the lower courts.
While the United States Supreme Court in Keller v. California State Bar agreed that membership in an association may be required to employment, individual members do not capitulate their rights to disagree with and choose not to fund certain activities to which they are opposed to.
Because the purpose of a state Bar is to regulate the legal profession and ultimately improve the quality of legal services, the Respondents in Keller v. California State Bar may choose to finance activities germane to its general purpose. That said, the court in Keller v. California State Bar held that the agency may not fund activities that fall outside of the scope of its general purpose, without procuring the consent of its members.