THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Florida prosecutors file suit over bar dues

Jun 16, 2010

The following article was published by The News Service of Florida on June 15, 2010:


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 15, 2010…Florida prosecutors on Tuesday asked the Florida Supreme Court to strike down a recently approved ban on using state money to pay for the Florida Bar dues of state employees who are lawyers.

The ban would “adversely” affect prosecution of cases in Florida and would amount to a pay cut for the more than 1,800 state attorneys and assistant state attorneys, wrote Arthur Jacobs, an attorney for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

“The individual assistant state attorneys will receive an immediate pay-cut in that this fee which has been paid for by the state, through the state attorneys office, must (now) be paid by the individual attorneys if they are to function as prosecutors,” Jacobs wrote.

Typically, the Legislature has included language in the state budget allowing public entities to spend public dollars on education, legal education and Bar dues for its employees. This year, it took a different route, banning the use of the funds.

The budget goes into effect July 1, and the prosecutors asked the court to block the provision from taking effect, saying it is of “questionable constitutionality.”

Florida Senate staff had surveyed state agencies earlier this year to determine how much the state paid in Bar dues for its employees who were lawyers. The results varied, but some spent more than $1 million on the dues. Individual Florida Bar dues are $265 annually.

Jacobs argued in his petition that state attorneys and their assistants must maintain a membership in the Florida Bar to work as a lawyer.

“The Florida Bar does not accept institutional memberships, therefore the payment of state funds becomes necessary for individual membership dues because such membership is essential to the statutory duties and responsibilities of the Office of the State Attorney, for which the individual lawyer is employed,” the suit said.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Jeff Atwater said the Senate had no comment while the Legislature’s lawyers are still reviewing the prosecutors’ petition. The suit is, however, filed against the Secretary of State’s office because it is responsible for handling a challenge to state law.