Some good news to share with everyone interested in family law reform.
Federal Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against State Bar Association
Legislation is introduced in Maryland in 2010 and 2011 calling for a presumption favoring equality in custody cases in the family courts. The bill never makes it out of committee for a vote. Legislation is introduced in 2010 in the state of Tennessee calling for shared parenting and presumptive equality in custody cases in the family courts; it fails to move out of committee. In 2011 legislation overhauling Alabama court custody practice is introduced; the bill goes nowhere.
Legislation is introduced in Minnesota in 2012 calling for increasing the time sharing presumption for children with both parents in child custody cases. After being watered down, legislation passes the House and Senate overwhelmingly, only to be vetoed by the governor. In 2011 and 2012 legislation is introduced in South Carolina providing for shared parenting. The bills give way to a compromise bill that requires parenting plans, and creating a study committee to recommend further changes to the statutes, but removes language that would mandate children spend significant time with both parents. Child custody reform legislation in North Dakota, Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, Nebraska and other states is introduced but is killed in committee or never given serious consideration.
Just what is going on here? And what does a class action lawsuit have to do with child custody legislation?
Those engaged in family law reform know one of the primary opponents of shared parenting are state bar associations. In every instance above where legislation was introduced the family law sections of the state bar association stood opposed. The bar associations in each of these states lobbied aggressively against bills providing children a fuller relationship with both parents.
Lawsuit Alleges Lobbying by Bar Associations Impermissible Activity
A new class action lawsuit filed against the Nebraska State Bar Association alleges lobbying activity by its state bar association violates the civil rights of attorneys who do not agree with the positions advocated. The suit further alleges that requiring attorneys to pay dues to the bar association as a condition of practicing law in the state, and then using those dues for broad based lobbying is an impermissible activity.
Mountain States Legal Foundation has filed suit against the Nebraska State Bar Association on behalf of Nebraska State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh. Senator Lautenbaugh is an attorney licensed to practice in the state of Nebraska. Senator Lautenbaugh also supports reforming family law and giving children a fuller relationship with both parents. Senator Lautenbaugh is tired of the state bar association coming over to the legislature and lobbying for or against legislation. Senator Lautenbaugh, on behalf of over 1,100 attorneys in the state of Nebraska, is seeking to restrict the state bar association’s lobbying activity, not just as it relates to family law legislation, but in many areas. We ‘tip the hat’ to Senator Lautenbaugh and support his efforts to end abuse of the public and legislative processes by the bar association.
While this case has been filed in federal court, the Nebraska Supreme Court is also showing interest in the activity of the bar association and has ordered it to provide detailed records of how it is spending members funds, particularly focusing on the bar’s lobbying expenditures.
Over 80% of the states listed at the beginning of this article have integrated state bar associations that engage in the same type of activities as the Nebraska bar. This lawsuit is important to citizens in a number of areas, family law being just one. We’ll keep you informed as the suit develops.
You can help by forwarding this email and letting others know about the lawsuit. As Charles Dickens noted (paraphrasing); the one great principle of the legal profession is to create business for itself. It’s time to end the practice of letting bar associations write the laws that end up being enforced through the courts.
Read the lawsuit press release.
Read the filed lawsuit.
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