‘Any … Member Shall Also Be Privileged to Stand for Election’1

As my term draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of the words “any member” of the bar being privileged to “stand for election.” In 2017, I was privileged to run as an “outsider” petition candidate seeking “to reform the way the State Bar currently conducts its business.”2

The result was that, in the 80-year history of the State Bar, I’ve been the only “petition” candidate privileged to both stand for, and also win the election.

So did my reform agenda make any difference? Consider the following:

  • In the 2017 election, I made protection of bar members’ voting rights the centerpiece for preservation of our system of self-governance.

  • For the first time in State Bar history, a record turnout of over 30,000 votes occurred.

  • My campaign thoroughly aired the unfortunate facts surrounding the nine-year embezzlement by the bar’s former membership director, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to the theft of more than $500,000 in state bar dues.

  • I appointed the first-ever Financial Responsibility Task Force, which investigated the embezzlement and verified the preventive measures put in place to avoid future thefts. The task force also recommended many useful cost-saving devices such as annual mini-sunset reviews for all State Bar departments, programs, and committees.

  • I appointed the first-ever Transparency Task Force, which was the first to recommend all future board meetings be videotaped and posted on the State Bar website for member viewing. In April 2018, we began the first-ever videotaping of board meetings.

  • I initiated a specific goal of reducing State Bar expenditures, which, through my work with key budget staff members, resulted in reducing State Bar spending from more than $45.4 million in 2017-2018 to less than $44 million for each of the next two budget years, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.

  • For State Bar elections, we eliminated all unreasonable restrictions on campaign activities in favor of allowing free speech and discussion of the issues—with no restrictions on candidate contacts with bar members.

  • For the first time since 2010, we recognized and elected a general counsel thereby making legal advice directly available to the board of directors—independent of bar staff attorneys.

  • In 2019, we raised the issue of voting rights of Texas Young Lawyers Association members and non-TYLA members related to non-TYLA members “aging out” of TYLA membership. This never-before-examined voting dynamic has resulted in over 75,000 non-TYLA active members not voting each year in the TYLA president-elect election, one of the two statewide elections conducted by the State Bar.3

  • Confronted with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus and its remand in Fleck, we have just begun the process of addressing issues raised regarding heightened scrutiny directed toward mandatory bar membership and compulsory payment of bar dues.4 This includes defending the State Bar of Texas against a federal lawsuit filed in March 2019 that, similar to Fleck, challenges the mandatory bar structure.5

  • In January, I requested the Texas attorney general to clarify the bar’s duties and responsibilities under the last two items.6

SBOT Pres Page
Joe K. Longley, accompanied by his wife, Maggie, is sworn in as State Bar president by Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman June 22, 2018. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

My focus for the past two years has been to protect our equal right to vote as a means to preserve the self-governance that has been critical to the success of our State Bar.7

So with that, I close out my term by saying that serving as your president has truly been a privilege—and you have my thanks for bestowing that privilege upon me. Together, over the past two years, we have made a positive difference over how our State Bar conducts its business. I’m proud of that … and I’m proud of you.

Yo estuve aquí—not as a bar hater … nor as a bar lover … but as a bar member. So long and adiós.

Joe K. Longley

President, State Bar of Texas


1. See State Bar Board Policy Manual Sec. 2.01.05 providing for the “petition” method of candidate nomination for president-elect requiring signatures of at least 5 percent of the bar’s 103,342 active members (5,167 signatures) for nomination.
2. See The Issues, 80 TBJ 218 (April 2017): “Q: Why do you want to serve as president of the State Bar of Texas? A: Longley: Through my candidacy, I seek to reform the way the State Bar currently conducts its business. The State Bar of 2017 seemingly exists only for itself with little thought given to the voting rights of its members. The bar is perceived by many to be an exclusive club of insiders perpetuating absentee leadership through low-turnout elections resulting in leaders totally relying on staff-prepared talking points to run the show.”
3. See One Member-One Vote? Not Quite, 81 TBJ 10 (Jan. 2019).
4. Janus v. Amer. Fed. State, Cty., and Mun. Emps., 585 U.S. --- (2018), available at
5. McDonald et al v. Longley et al (2019), available at
6. See Opinion request from Joe K. Longley, State Bar of Texas President, to Ken Paxton, Tex. Att’y Gen., RQ-0265-KP (Jan. 22, 2019), available at
7. The 1939 State Bar Act provided for an equal vote for all active bar members. See Fresh Perspective, 77 TBJ 320 (April 2014).

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