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In re The Dues of State Bar of Montana

Supreme Court of Montana

September 27, 2017

IN RE THE DUES OF THE STATE BAR OF MONTANA

          ORDER

         At the direction of its Board of Trustees, the State Bar of Montana has petitioned this Court to increase the dues for active State Bar members from $200 to either $285 or $300, for inactive members from $125 to $190, and for senior members from $50 to $75. A copy of the State Bar's petition, including its argument in support of a dues increase, is attached to this Order.

         IT IS ORDERED that comments and responses from the State Bar membership and the public regarding the petition of the State Bar of Montana for a dues increase maybe filed with the Clerk of this Court on or before November 17, 2017. Thereafter, the State Bar shall have until December 1, 2017, to respond in writing to the comments from the public and the State Bar membership.

         The State Bar of Montana is asked to give notice of this Order on its website and in the next available issue of The Montana Lawyer. A copy of this Order shall be electronically published on the website of the judicial branch.

          MIKEMcGRATH, LAURIE McKINNON, BETH BAKER, MICHAEL E WHEAT, DIRK M. SANDEFUR JAMES JEREMIAH SHEA, JIM RICE.

         IN RE PETITION OF THE STATE BAR OF MONTANA FOR A DUES INCREASE

         PETITION

         Recognizing the Montana Supreme Court's inherent authority to regulate the practice of law in Montana, the State Bar of Montana, at the direction of its Board of Trustees, respectfully petitions the Montana Supreme Court to increase the dues for active State Bar members from $200 to either $285 or $300, for inactive members from $125 to $190, and for senior members from $50 to $75. This petition is filed pursuant to Section VI of the Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating, Rules.

         MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF PETITION

         In June 2017, the State Bar submitted its Special Report to the Montana Supreme Court detailing the State Bar's current financial status. See Special Report to the Montana Supreme Court (June 2017). The State Bar's Board of Trustees advised the Court in the Report that a dues increase is needed to support current operating expenses, including providing support to Court-ordered programs and Supreme Court Commissions.

         The State Bar proposed two dues increase alternatives for active members in the June 2017 report: from $200 to $285 or to $300. Both alternatives include increases of $65 for inactive members (from $125 to $190) and $25 for senior members (from $50 to $75). According to current financial projections, increasing dues for active members to $300 would allow full funding of the State Bar. A dues increase of $85 would address the Bar's funding needs for up to five years.

         I. THIS COURT HAS AUTHORITY TO ORDER AN INCREASE IN STATE BAR DUES AND A DEFINED PROCEDURE FOR DOING SO.

         In its 2001 Order in In re the Petition of the State Bar of Montana for a Dues Increase, the Court confirmed:

[I]n order to fulfill our constitutional duty to govern and control the practice of law in the State of Montana, we conclude that it is necessary that the 1974 Order Unifying the Bar be amended to provide that annual membership dues will be set at the sole discretion of the Supreme Court.

2001 MT108, ¶ 22. After ordering a dues increase, the Court continued:

Any future dues changes, while in the sole discretion of the Court, shall be implemented only after giving the Bar membership notice of the proposed change and a 90-day period to comment on the proposed change.

Id. ¶ 25. The Court further imposed a continuing reporting obligation on the State Bar:

Beginning in March 2003, the State Bar of Montana shall report annually to the Court as to the financial status of the Bar. Beginning in March 2005, and every three years thereafter, the State Bar shall file with the Court a special report analyzing the dues structure in light of the Bar's responsibility to address the ...

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