United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ROBERT E. CARUSO and SANDRA L. FERGUSON, Plaintiffs,
WASHINGTON STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed
by Defendants Washington State Bar Association
(“WSBA”) and WSBA officials. Dkt. #16. Plaintiffs
Robert E. Caruso and Sandra L. Ferguson oppose this Motion.
Dkt. #18. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS
Defendants' Motion, dismisses Plaintiffs' claims
without leave to amend, and DENIES as MOOT Plaintiffs'
other pending motions.
case was filed on January 3, 2017, initially as a putative
class action on behalf of all WSBA members, naming Plaintiffs
Robert E. Caruso and Sandra L. Ferguson as class
representatives. See Id. at 11. On February 21,
Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint, which asserts
individual claims on behalf of Plaintiffs Caruso and
Ferguson, abandoning all class claims. See Dkt. # 4.
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint describes Defendants as:
(1) “Washington State Bar Association 1933, ” an
entity Plaintiffs allege is “the Washington State Bar
Association created by the State Bar Act, Wash. Sess. ch. 94,
1933 and prior to the amendments made to its Bylaws by the
WSBA 1933 Board of Governors the afternoon of September 30,
2016;” (2) “Washington State Bar Association
2017, ” an entity Plaintiffs allege is “the
Washington State Bar Association created by amendments made
to Bylaws of the WSBA 1933 by the WSBA 1933 Board of
Governors on September 30, 2016;” and (3-21) various
WSBA officials. Id. at 1-3. Plaintiffs Caruso and
Ferguson are licensed attorneys under the laws of the State
of Washington and each “is a member of the
WSBA.” Id. at 5.
First Cause of Action is for declaratory judgment and seeks,
in part, an injunction “enjoining Defendants from
compelling Plaintiffs to be a members (sic) of the WSBA 2017
and from compelling Plaintiffs to pay dues to the WSBA
2017.” Id. at 32. Plaintiffs' Second Cause
of Action is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S.
Constitution for being “compelled to be a members (sic)
of WSBA 1933 or WSBA 2017.” Id.
Plaintiffs' Third Cause of Action is similarly brought
under the First and Fourteenth Amendments as
“[c]ompulsory dues violate Plaintiffs' right of
freedom of speech, including the freedom not to speak and to
not be forced to finance speech…” Id.
at 33. Plaintiffs' Fourth Cause of Action is titled
“WSBA Discipline System No Longer Exists.”
Id. at 34-35. Plaintiffs' Fifth Cause of Action
alleges that the WSBA discipline system violates
constitutional due process. Id. at 35.
Plaintiffs' Sixth Cause of Action alleges that the WSBA
discipline system deprives Plaintiffs' rights
“under the doctrine of constitutional scrutiny.”
Id. at 36. Plaintiffs' Prayer for Relief
essentially requests the Court declare that Plaintiffs,
attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of
Washington, do not have to be members of the WSBA, do not
have to pay WSBA dues, and are not subject to WSBA
discipline. Id. at 38-39.
March 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment. Dkt. # 8. On March 3, 2017, Plaintiffs also filed a
Motion for Preliminary Injunction, making similar arguments
in support of Plaintiffs' claims in this case.
See Dkt. # 15. On March 21, 2017, Defendants filed a
Motion to Dismiss, which the Court will address first. Dkt.
making a 12(b)(6) assessment, the court accepts all facts
alleged in the complaint as true, and makes all inferences in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Baker
v. Riverside County Office of Educ., 584 F.3d 821, 824
(9th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). However, the
court is not required to accept as true a “legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 678. This
requirement is met when the plaintiff “pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. The complaint need not include
detailed allegations, but it must have “more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Absent facial
plausibility, Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed.
Id. at 570.
complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim,
“leave to amend should be granted unless the court
determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with
the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the
deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well
Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).
Nature of Defendants “WSBA 1933, ” “WSBA
2017, ” and the actual WSBA
Court will not address tangential facts and arguments raised
by the parties and will focus instead on the key legal
questions in Defendants' entirely dispositive Motion to
Dismiss. Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts that the WSBA
ceased to exist and was born anew on the afternoon of
September 30, 2016, when the WSBA enacted certain bylaw
amendments. Dkt. #4 at 9. At issue are amendments to include
limited-license practitioners (“Limited Practice
Officers, ” or “LPOs, ” and “Limited
License Legal Technicians, ” or “LLLTs”).
Dkt. #4 at 11-14; see also Dkt. #15 at 5-6, 11.
Plaintiffs assert that the bylaws amendments remove the WSBA
from the purview of the State Bar Act, chapter 2.48 RCW. Dkt.
#4 at 34, see also Dkt. #8 at 10. Defendants argue
that the State Bar Act establishes the WSBA as an
“agency of the state, ” RCW 2.48.010, and gives
the WSBA Board of Governors the power to adopt rules
governing bar membership and discipline. Dkt. #16 at 14
(citing RCW 2.48.060). Defendants argue that
“[p]ursuant to and consistent with the State Bar Act
and other Washington law, the WSBA regularly amends its
bylaws regarding any number of matters relevant to the
practice of law in Washington, including bar membership and
limited-license practices.” Id. (citing RCW
2.48.050; WSBA Bylaws at 72-73). Defendants argues that the
amendments at issue do not render the WSBA a new entity.
Id. (citing RCW 2.48.050; WSBA Bylaws at 72-73;
cf. Fletcher Cyclopedia of the Law of Corps.
§§ 6, 4176 (2016)). Defendants argue that
“[n]othing in the amendments changes the WSBA into
something beyond what the Washington Supreme Court has
authorized, in its inherent authority over the practice of
law.” Id. at 15 (citing State ex rel.
Schwab v. Wash. State Bar Ass'n, 80 Wn.2d 266, 269,
493 P.2d 1237 (1972); Hahn v. Boeing Co., 95 Wn.2d
28, 34, 621 P.2d 1263 (1980)).
Response, Plaintiffs argue the WSBA was created in 1933 by
the Bar Act, that it is an integrated association, that
“the new WSBA came into being, not by any action on the
part of the Supreme Court, but by action of the WSBA 1933
Board of Governors, ” and that “[t]he authority
of the state has not be (sic) passed on to the WSBA by the
state legislature or the Supreme Court.” Dkt. #23 at