Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Legal Watchdog goes to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin

Earlier this week we argued to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in support of our petition to reform ethics rule 1.9.  We’re trying to change the rule so that attorneys can enjoy basic free speech rights with regard to public information, e.g., published appellate court opinions, about their closed cases.  You can find the arguments at this link — but you have to press “Part 2” on the right hand side of the web page in order to get to us.  Rob Henak and Ellen Henak also spoke in support of the petition.  On the other side, a representative from our state bar opposed our petition, which was disappointing.  The state bar can get away with suppressing its members’ speech because it is compulsory, i.e., we lawyers have no choice but to join.  As I’ve argued before, however, the bar should rethink its position, as it might not always have that guaranteed stream of compulsory bar dues to fund its bureaucracy.  In Arizona, for example, the Irreverent Lawyer’s “house bill 2221” to make their bar voluntary just passed by a vote of 31-29. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

State Bar News

Here are three pieces of bar related news for The Dog's readers.  FIRST, the ABA is pushing to make state bar exams uniform.  This would allow lawyers to more easily move from state to state to find jobs.  Unfortunately, newly licensed lawyers would know even less about their specific state's law than they currently do -- and that's bad news for would-be clients.

SECOND, our state bar here in Wisconsin opposes our proposed change to ethics rule 1.9 -- color me surprised.  Our bar collects our dues and is supposed to be working for us, yet has chosen to "protect" the public from lawyers' discussion of public information, rather than protecting our basic free speech rights.  If the Wisconsin bar has its way, we lawyers will still be prevented from talking about even the public aspects (e.g., published appellate court decisions) of our former clients' cases -- also known as our cases.  This is clearly unconstitutional, but our bar and other mandatory bars love to be perceived as protecting the public at its lawyer-members' expense.

THIRD, Wisconsin's mandatory bar can get away with taking our money and then working to violate our basic constitutional rights because it's an entrenched bureaucracy that we are forced to join.  But the bar ought to rethink its position, because it might not enjoy this insanely privileged status forever.  In Arizona, for example, the Irreverent Lawyer is leading a movement to dismantle the mandatory bar and turn it into a voluntary organization.  If he is successful, their state bar bureaucracy would shrivel up faster than a grape in the southwest desert summer sun.   (That is, few lawyers would join if they're not forced to do so.)  Good luck, Irreverent One!  Why don't you take care of business in Arizona, and then come to Wisconsin and take on our mandatory bar?  Knightly offers his assistance in the fight for freedom of speech and freedom of association.