WisBar News: Arbitrator’s decision in Public Image Campaign funding may be before the State Supreme Court:

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  • WisBar News
    January
    23
    2009

    Arbitrator’s decision in Public Image Campaign funding may be before the State Supreme Court

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    Jan. 23, 2009 – Former State Bar President Steve Levine has filed a petition asking the supreme court to review an arbitrator’s decision concerning costs associated with the State Bar of Wisconsin’s attorney public image campaign. The arbitrator determined that those costs were properly treated when the State Bar established fiscal year 2009 dues.

    Arbitrator’s decision in Public Image Campaign funding may be before the State Supreme Court

    Former State Bar President Steve Levine has filed a petition asking the supreme court to review an arbitrator’s decision concerning costs associated with the State Bar of Wisconsin’s attorney public image campaign. The arbitrator determined that those costs were properly treated when the State Bar established fiscal year 2009 dues.

    “I am disappointed that attorney Levine did not accept the well-reasoned arbitration decision,” State Bar President Diane Diel responded. “I will meet with Bar leadership later this week to assess the impact of this petition on the Bar in these economic times.”

    The arbitration process was initiated by Levine and two other attorneys who argued that the Bar should have included image campaign expenditures in the Keller dues rebate for FY 2009. The campaign, which operates under the direction of the Public Image Committee, addresses the public's perception of the profession through outreach activities, including 30-second television ads broadcast on a rotating basis around the state.

    The Bar’s Board of Governors establishes the association’s dues as part of the annual budget process. Under Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990), the Bar cannot use compulsory dues of objecting members for political or ideological activities that are not reasonably related to regulating the legal profession or improving the quality of legal services. Keller allows members to decline to support such activities that have been designated by the Board of Governors. The amount is calculated using financial statements and activities for the Bar’s most recent audited fiscal year.

    The arbitration process is established by SCR 10.03(5)(b), which provides, in part, that “A member of the state bar who contends that the state bar incorrectly set the amount of dues that can be withheld may deliver to the state bar a written demand for arbitration.”

    The arbitrator concluded that the Bar has “persuasively demonstrated that the public image campaign is within the language and intent of SCR 10.02 and 10.03, such as to make its costs chargeable to objectors.”