Spring 2019 Gavel Spring Gavel 2019 - Page 5

SBAND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SBAND REMAINED ACTIVE THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION TONY J. WEILER SBAND Executive Director In the spring edition of The Gavel, I usually write about the number of lawyers who comprise the State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND). Currently, there are 2,931 licensed North Dakota lawyers. That number has been somewhat consistent the last few years, and there continues to be work for lawyers in our great state. By comparison, at the end of 2003, there were 1,840 attorneys in North Dakota. We continue to have many members who do not have their primary address in North Dakota, with approximately 60 percent of our members living in state. As many of you know, I write this during the midst of our biennial legislative session (which will have ended by the time this issue comes out). That always makes it difficult to write about legislation, unless it has already been signed by the Governor. We are guided by SBAND’s legislative policy, which clearly states, as an integrated bar, it would be a practical impossibility to gain the unanimity of opinion on most issues from our diverse membership. Further, we are guided by Keller v. California, which mandates members’ fees may only be used to regulate the profession and for the improvement of the practice of law. With that in mind, the Board of Governors takes very seriously a position on any issue and, in line with Keller and subsequent precedent, does not take any position on any issues that would be considered “political” in nature. In my experience, legislators welcome the expertise of lawyers who work in the area of law that is being contemplated by a bill. Often, SBAND helps find a lawyer to testify on an issue, while not doing so on our behalf. Legislators and legislative committees often seek out the views of knowledgeable representatives of SBAND in these areas and pay close attention to their recommendations. During this session, we supported the Supreme Court’s budget, which is essentially the entire court system budget, along with several bills suggested by the Commission on Uniform Laws (all of which were non- controversial). We also supported the budget of the North Dakota Commission on Legal Counsel for Indigents, in recognition of the important work of this organization. We also supported an increase in funding for Legal Services of North Dakota by supporting legislation that increased the cap on the funds it may receive from filing fees from $650,000 to $750,000. Finally, we supported legislation to increase funding for the University of North Dakota School of Law. With the leadership of President Pelham and ABA State Bar Delegate Dan Traynor, SBAND proposed legislation that would provide secure and long-term funding at a time when our law school desperately needs it. We relied on the expertise of newly appointed Dean Michael McGinniss and other members of the bar who worked closely with us to ensure the funding happened. We asked you, our members, to reach out to your legislators and many of you did. This does have an impact, as many of our friends at the Capitol indicated to me; they heard from you and support our efforts to secure adequate funding for our one and only law school. When it comes to broader issues of social policy, the association's role and influence is necessarily different. These are issues that generally have strong political overtones. In these areas, the association may be viewed more as a special interest group than as a body of experts. The association will take great pains to recognize this important distinction and will generally avoid taking positions on issues of this nature. With that being said, we are still in litigation in the Fleck v. Wetch, et. al matter. We continue to argue the merits of an integrated bar and its continued Constitutionality under Keller. Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court granted attorney Fleck’s petition for certiorari and vacated the Eight Circuit’s decision, which found in SBAND’s favor. The Supreme Court remanded the suit to the Eighth Circuit to consider it again in light of the Court’s decision in June 2018 in Janus v. AFSME. In Janus, the Court held that public sector employees who are not union members are not required to pay an “agency fee” to cover the cost of collective bargaining. SBAND’s briefing to the Eighth Circuit was due at the end of March, with oral argument set for June 13 in St. Paul, Minn. Amicus briefs were filed by numerous other integrated state bars from around the country, and we will keep you posted as we move forward. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. SPRING 2019 5