U.S. Supreme Court Hands Goldwater Free Speech Victory

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the Goldwater Institute a major victory for First Amendment rights in the Fleck v. Wetch case. The justices threw out a lower court ruling that allowed states to force lawyers to subsidize state bar associations.

According to Jennifer Tiedemann with the Goldwater Institute, the justices did not issue a full opinion, but ordered the lower court to reconsider its holding in Fleck v. Wetch, in light of the Janus case, which held that government must get consent from workers before it compels them to subsidize trade associations such as labor unions.

The Goldwater Institute filed a petition for certiorari in Fleck’s case in December, asking the Supreme Court to decide whether the North Dakota rules comply with the standards required by the Janus decision. Today, the high court agreed, ruling in favor of Fleck and ordering lower courts to reconsider the case in light of the First Amendment.

Arnold Fleck, the plaintiff in the case is an attorney in North Dakota, who filed suit in 2015 to challenge a law that requires North Dakota attorneys not only to pass the state’s bar exam, but also to join the state bar association and pay member dues that the association uses to support political activities, according to Tiedemann.

In August 2017, a federal Court of Appeals ruled against Fleck, holding that the bar association was complying with the law by allowing attorneys to opt out if they did not want to fund speech they disagreed with. Shortly afterwards, the Supreme Court announced in Janus that allowing a person to opt out isn’t enough. Instead, the First Amendment requires that a person be asked before his or her money is taken to subsidize a political campaign, reported Tiedemann

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