Prominent legal authority Clint Bolick calls for reining in the State Bar

Attorney Clint Bolick

by Clint Bolick

It is inherently dangerous to confer the coercive powers of government upon a guild. Exhibit A: the Arizona State Bar, which is on a rampage to suppress free-speech rights.

The Bar has initiated several complaints against Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in regard to his critical comments about Superior Court judges and his office’s efforts to recuse a judge for allegedly failing to enforce a voter initiative. Wise and temperate or not, such criticisms are at the core of constitutionally protected speech, and the Bar’s campaign against Thomas is sure to chill the exercise of those rights.

Thomas enlisted several prominent lawyers and ethics experts to provide affidavits in support of his special action contesting the bar’s enforcement actions in the Arizona Supreme Court, including the distinguished former Bar president, Ernest Calderon. The Bar responded by unanimously voting to replace Calderon as a delegate to the American Bar Association. State Bar president Daniel McAuliffe stated ominously, “Maybe he shouldn’t have filed the affidavit.”

The Bar also has voted to officially oppose the proposed initiative that would ban racial preferences in government employment, contracting, and education. The Bar likely would use compulsory membership dues of members who strongly support the initiative-a form of compelled political speech that also violates constitutional guarantees.

The Bar’s many roles-prosecutor, judge, enforcer, lobbyist-are ill-suited for a single entity. Several legislators have proposed stripping the Bar of its disciplinary functions, and they should also make membership voluntary. In the meantime, the Arizona Supreme Court should exercise its supervisory authority to prevent abuse of the Bar’s sweeping powers. The rule of law requires neutral law enforcement, but one of the components of that process in Arizona has become a strident partisan.

Clint Bolick serves as the director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. SonoranSam says

    This is not a “free speech” issue, Mr. Bolick. This is a professional standards and responsibilities issue.

    You and I may disagree on whether Mr. Thomas acted inappropriately, but the Bar has an obligation to look into credible allegations of unprofessional conduct.

    Arguing that the Bar “initiated” complaints is simply untrue. They investigate complaints brought by fellow members of this professional organization.

    Would it be a “free speech” issue if a physician was being investigated for unprofessional conduct?

  2. Buddy Breon says

    Sammy, you got it wrong.

    The clue is right in front of us. The Bar was openly critical of Calderone (no right-wing conservative, for sure) and remarked his punishment was for filing in support of Andy Thomas.

    The Bar Association, once a fortress for safety for the public from crooked lawyers, is now more interested in political influence than anything else. Like any powerful organization, the Bar is simply trying to silence any opposition. When that happens, it is more important than ever that opposition is stronger and louder. It is the only way to stop a bully.

    As to the Bar’s responsibility to check-out complaints, file one and see how long it takes to get any reveiw and how quietly it is done. No, this action was not one of “investigate complaints.” This is a union trying to destroy opponents of their union activities. Actions by the Bar Association make it an unprofessional organization.

  3. Eh. Clint is hardly a legal authority. he is a conservative hack with a legal background and no more.

  4. I have been trying to get trust fund money and other ethical complaints decided by the AZ Bar since last November. They just cover up for the attorney in question and give the public an impossible set of hurdles. The latest – we did not hear from our investigator at the Bar because the attorney-subject of our complaint “told him the matter was settled”. That’s why we have not received an answer from the Bar. The Bar took the attorney’s word without contacting us. What a farce.

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