Elizabeth Warren never bothered to get a license to practice law in Massachusetts despite using her Harvard Law School office for a substantial part-time law practice which netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars in at least 22 court cases plus legal consulting starting in the mid-1990s and continuing through 2010.

This is precisely the type of situation which a prominent federal judge, William Young, in an unrelated case said warranted investigation by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.

In defense, Warren supporters raise irrelevant side issues, such as the assertion that she complied with the rules of each court in which she appeared.  As I have explained, that is not a defense because in addition to complying with court admission rules, attorneys also need to be licensed in the states in which they practice law.

The controversy was almost killed the day the story broke when Michael Fredrickson, the BBO General Counsel, gave a press interview and seemingly exonerated Warren, while also suggesting there might be the equivalent of a law professor exception to the licensing rules.  Only after I pressed Fredrickson on the issue did he admit that there was no law professor exception, that he was not speaking on behalf of the BBO, and that he was not reaching a conclusion as to Warren individually, since he knew almost nothing about her law practice.  

The Massachusetts Republican Party wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court seeking clarification in light of Fredrickson’s statements, but apparently there has been no response yet.

Now the issue finally is coming to a head as Francis McNamara, former US Attorney in Massachusetts, has called for an investigation.

Unfortunately, because of one blemish on McNamara’s record, the media and Massachusetts Democrats have used ad hominem attacks on McNamara to avoid dealing with the substance of the issue.  From AP via Boston Herald:

A former Republican U.S. attorney for Massachusetts is calling for an investigation into Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s law license, echoing a charge also raised by Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.

Francis McNamara, who resigned in 1989 after federal investigators concluded he’d falsely accused former Republican Gov. William Weld of smoking marijuana, said the Massachusetts Bar of Board Overseers should investigate to see if Warren “engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.”

Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, said McNamara and Brown are “just wrong.”

Warren is currently a member of the Texas bar and U.S. Supreme Court bar. Warren said she’s always complied with the rules of court whenever she appeared.

A call to the Massachusetts Bar of Board Overseers wasn’t immediately returned.

Brown and Warren are locked in a tight Senate race.

Via The Herald:

MassDems Chairman John Walsh called McNamara ‘a disgraced political operative’ with a history of ‘baseless and ridiculous attacks.’

I didn’t follow the McNamara issue back in 1989, but some quick research indicates it may not be as clear as presented.

Regardless, if McNamara has a 23 year old blemish on his record, it hardly means that Warren did not violate the law by failing to obtain the same license expected of all others who practice law, full or part time, in Massachusetts. 

As when the Cherokee women traveled to Boston to try to meet with Warren, the response is to attack the messengers of a hard and politically uncomfortable message for Warren.

This really is not a complicated issue; few attorneys would have Warren’s nerve to maintain an active part-time law practice from an office in Massachusetts for a long and continuous period of time without getting licensed. 

Maybe that is why a large majority of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly readers who responded to an online poll voted for an investigation.

Warren lied about being Native American, McNamara allegedly lied about a fellow Republican smoking pot.  So call that even, for the sake of argument.

What is not even is that Warren needed to comply with the rules that apply to everyone else.