File V. Kastner: Challenging Forced State Bar Dues

File v. Kastner

lawyers forced to pay dues to state bar association

Schuyler File is a private attorney who works and resides in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Since he began practicing there in December 2017, the State Bar Association of Wisconsin has required him to be a member and pay mandatory membership dues. File previously practiced in Indiana, a state that does not have a mandatory bar.

File pays over $250 a year in dues to the State Bar. If he fails pay those dues, he could be sent to jail for a year and fined $500 for engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

However, File does not affirmatively consent to these dues nor the requirement of membership in the State Bar. The State Bar of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which requires this mandatory membership, are violating his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association by forcing him to be a member of an organization that is not the formal regulatory system for legal ethics in the state.

In its last term, the State Bar spent $520,000 on lobbying “on behalf of the entire membership.” However, the Association also engages in “ideologically charged activities” which fall outside of normal lobbying, such as supporting far-reaching changes to the legal system, choosing partisan speakers for events, and biased selection of topics for legal education seminars.

Because these State Bar activities deal with matters of public concern, forced membership in the association is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling.


With the help of attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, File is seeking the termination of his membership and a refund of his membership dues. The case, Schuyler File v. Kastner et al., was filed on July 25, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.


Complaint 07/25/2019

Response to Motion to Stay Proceedings 12/05/2019

Response to MTD 12/05/2019

Response to MTD 12/05/2019

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