LCW Partner Geoff Sheldon, Senior Counsel Dave Urban, And Associate Kelsey Ridenhour Win Dismissal Of Union Dues Deduction Case

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jun 05, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court determined in its 2018 opinion in Janus v. AFSCME that the payment of union dues is a form of political speech, which triggers the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Based on Janus, a court reporter sued her union, the State of California, the superior court, and a county for violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and due process.  The court reporter claimed that the superior court and the county continued to collect union dues from her paycheck after she had terminated her union membership and had rescinded her dues-deduction authorization.  She also alleged that the union forged her signature on the authorization form and misrepresented to the superior court and the county that the deductions should continue.

LCW represented the county, which processed payroll for the superior court employees.  LCW defended the county in both the District Court and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  At each level, the courts agreed with LCW’s arguments and dismissed the court reporter’s claims.

As to the Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim, the county had no reason to doubt the union’s representations that the court reporter had authorized the dues deductions.  The courts also agreed that the county had no duty to verify the validity of the authorizations.

As to the First Amendment free speech claims, the courts agreed that the county was not the proximate cause of the unauthorized dues deduction.  The county could not have foreseen the court reporter’s First Amendment injury because the county had: 1) no duty to ensure that the dues authorization forms were genuine; and 2) no notice that the court reporter had contested the dues deductions from her paycheck.

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