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Rep. Calvey Proposes Bill to Dismantle State Bar Association

(April 7, 2016)  Update:  The House State Government Operations Committee, scheduled to hear SB 583 today, has cancelled the meeting for lack of a quorum. For the moment the bill is dormant.

April 5, 2016 – Rep. Kevin Calvey today amended legislation (SB 583) that he co-authored to abolish the Oklahoma Bar Association in its present form.  The issue will be heard by the House State Government Operations Committee on Thursday, April 7, in State Capitol room 512A at 10:30 a.m.  Let your voice be heard by contacting committee members today!


This proposed legislation crosses over into the Supreme Court’s authority to regulate the practice of law. This bill is patently unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine and it is special legislation. It only relates to lawyers and does not relate to doctors, plumbers or dentists who also pay licensing fees to the state.

The Oklahoma Bar Association is not an organization -- it is an arm of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Oklahoma Supreme Court under its authority pursuant to Article VII of the Oklahoma Constitution has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the practice of law.  

5 O.S. Chapter 1, Section 13 states:

The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma shall have the exclusive power and authority to discipline attorneys and counselors at law or revoke the permit to practice law granted to attorneys and counselors at law and the rules of conduct of attorneys and counselors at law in this state shall be such as are now or may hereafter be prescribed by the statutes of Oklahoma and the rules of the Supreme Court.

Dues are set by Court Rule.  5 O.S. Chap. 1, Appendix 1, Art. II Sec. 2 which in part states:

Members of the Association shall be divided into three classes, namely, (a) active members, (b) senior members, and (c) associate members. No other categories of membership may be allowed. The annual dues shall be paid according to Art. VIII, § 1. Tweedy v. Oklahoma Bar Assoc., 624 P.2d 1049, 1052 (Okla. 1981); R.J. Edwards, Inc. v. Hert, 504 P.2d 407, 415 (Okla. 1972); In re Integration of State Bar, 185 Okla. 50595 P.2d 113 (1939).     …


The OBA provides public protection by prosecuting attorneys who have acted unethically stealing from clients and people who are unauthorized to practice law. Without funding from member dues, these public protection functions will not be provided or there will need to be an appropriation from the Legislature that could be as much as $6 million.

This bill allows discretionary membership and payment of dues. Supreme Court rules require all persons licensed to practice law in the state of Oklahoma to be a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association.

Members who object to expenditure of funds have a publicly advertised procedure to challenge expenditures that is published with the annual budget and is on the OBA website. The procedure is in compliance with U.S. Supreme Court guidelines as pronounced in Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990).


Listen to this Special Message:

8 – 9 AM

Hear OBA Executive Director John Morris Williams speak on this issue on the Mitchell in the Morning program.