The U.S. Supreme Court sent back a case challenging a nearly 30-year-old precedent allowing mandatory bar membership.
The case took aim at the county’s first mandatory bar, North Dakota’s, which required membership in the state’s bar association as a condition to practice law as early as 1921, according to the American Bar Association.
Although the state with the most lawyers as of 2017—New York—still has voluntary membership, 37 other U.S. jurisdictions have “unified” or “integrated” bars, which require bar membership, according to ABA statistics.
Arnold Fleck, a North Dakota lawyer, says the requirement violates his First Amendment rights. He asked the court to overturn a nearly 30-year-old precedent holding otherwise.
The Supreme Court said in 1990 that mandatory membership schemes pass constitutional muster so long as they don’t require members to “finance political and ideological activities with which” an attorney disagrees.