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Former US Attorney calls for investigation of Elizabeth Warren law license problem

Former US Attorney calls for investigation of Elizabeth Warren law license problem

Attack the messenger is the defense once again.

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.


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What is it with Democrats that they think they are ENTITLED to be above the law, or that laws are for the “little people” Warren always claims to be fighting for….?

Dookie…meet blower…

According to WCVB the Massachusetts Bar Association, different from the Mass BBO had stated Warren did nothing wrong.

That means anyone with an inactive license from anywhere from the country can work bankruptcy practice in Massachusetts? Well, Warren can do it…

    ReneeA in reply to ReneeA. | October 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Warren said she’s always followed the rules.
    “I’m a member of the bar of Texas. I was a member of the bar of New Jersey. I’m a member of the United States Supreme Court bar, I’m a member of several federal bars,” Warren said Monday.
    “I have always complied with the rules of court whenever I have appeared. Always,” she added.
    Michael Mone, a lawyer and former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association and former member of the Board of Bar Overseers, said McNamara has it wrong and that Warren broke no rules.
    “She is so clearly covered by the applicable rules. To argue to the contrary is silly,” said Mone, who is also a Democrat.

      Paul in reply to ReneeA. | October 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Being a member of several bars, does not alleviate the responsibility to have a valid Massachusetts license when operating an office for the purpose of practicing law in Massachusetts, as the Professor has aptly pointed out.

      george in reply to ReneeA. | October 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      In the 2002 schlictmann appeal in CA1, she appeared but I believe she is not admitted to CA1 bar. So she need an MA license.

    ReneeA in reply to ReneeA. | October 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

    What is interesting from the Michael Mone (former President of the MBA) statement, is that under MBA rules Warren would NOT be eligible to be a member.

    ARTICLE IV – Membership
    Section 1. Membership. Any member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in good standing may become a member of the Association and only such members may vote and hold office in the Association. Other categories of membership may be established by the EMB. Any member of the Association, who has been admitted to the bar for fifty (50) years and is a current member of the Association in good standing, shall automatically become a life member of the Association and be exempt from paying annual dues.

    Also the MBA has “practice groups” in regards to federal laws, such as bankruptcy and civil litigation in the federal courts.


    Nothing is going to stop them.

The Herald article stated:

“Warren is currently a member of the Texas bar …”

I thought she was listed as “inactive” in Texas.

“Hard and politically uncomfortable message”? You should add “potentially criminal”, in the case of practicing law without a valid license. I hope this call for an investigation goes to a Grand Jury. I would like to see consequences for her violating Massachusetts law.

She never will. Everyone has her behind. What is sad, is that the general public is being misled on the importance that it isn’t the ‘appearance’ in court, but the work product.

The focus should be on the NJ bar. She is using that license to operate in MA.

I don’t know. The legal ethics being dismissed scares me.

Did you attack the messenger when suggesting (as the Mass GOP also suggested) that the BBO general counsel was being partisan? What we have here is a former GOP political appointee who also ran and lost in the most recent election for Mass GOP chair. How can this be seen as anything other than an overtly partisan allegation? Additionally, it appears that McNamara has not filed any official action, as the Mass GOP also did not do, and as you yourself have not done.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to taxman10m. | October 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Per second Herald link, McNamara “filed a complaint with the Board of Bar Overseers Friday charging Elizabeth Warren practiced law here without a license….”

    Estragon in reply to taxman10m. | October 16, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Sounds like a Democratic standard to me – if she hasn’t been charged, she must be innocent.

    We are just asking questions at this stage. Why do these questions get you so riled up?

Ms Warren, are you trying to tell me that my mistakes excuse your mistakes? Can you explain to me how that works without giggling?

Has this been answered? NJ requires lawyers with active licenses to take probono work, the NJ Bar assigns the lawyer. Has the NJ Bar assign Warren anything in the past? You need an active license somewhere, right? Or are all these lawyers do not need it, once admitted to the federal courts.

    ReneeA in reply to ReneeA. | October 15, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    9. I am an attorney, admitted in New Jersey, but I practice law and have a bono fide office in another state. My firm does not have an office in New Jersey. Am I required to do pro bono cases? (back to top
    ) No, you are exempt from mandatory pro bono. You should request exemption code 90
     on the annual pro bono questionnaire that is part of the online annual attorney registration.

    I’m assuming there may be an exemption for academics? Still she is stating she is not in the state, how can she have the privilege of relying on that license for her legal work and representation and generating fees?

I don’t know what the UPL investigation and prosecution rules are in Massachusetts, but in Florida, unless someone formally complains, nothing will be done. The basis for this position arguably was Surety Title Insurance Agency, Inc. v. Virgina State Bar, which issued an advisory opinion on a UPL issue that was held to constitute an illegal prior restraint of commerce and other violations of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.

So “calls for action” won’t do it. Someone may have to formally file a complaint.

    janitor in reply to janitor. | October 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    P.S. Anyone. Lawyer. MA or TX or NJ resident. Client. Or not. Offended member of the public. Multiple someones. Hint…

      ReneeA in reply to janitor. | October 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      The evidence of UPL would go to the District Attorney, not the Mass BBO. Mass BBO can only handle complaints of Massachusetts attorneys. That goes with any state. A complaint would go to NJ or TX.

        janitor in reply to ReneeA. | October 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm

        The impression I got from the BBO website was that they investigate claims filed by anyone. Warren was practicing law in Massachusetts. Perhaps the BBO then would refer evidence of a crime or UPL to the D.A. My guess is that they won’t investigate at all without a complaint, and I would also guess that they might be considered the experts on the subject and the first step by the D.A.’s office.

        (Of course complaints also could be filed in the other states.)

Prof, I know you have yet to grasp my legal point from a post last week, but take another look it is an important point

The point: after1997 Warren was in eligible to waive into MA based on her then extant admission in NJ. After 1997, she could not qualify under the two part waive-in test. Rather, to be admitted after1997, she was going to have to sit for the bar exam. (and study for it for months like everybody else)

But in classic Warren fashion, if you have an issue, just fib, mislead, lie and you get what you want. When you have hacks like Fredricksen at the immediate ready, why worry. Life is grand,

IANAL, but according to the Texas Bar website, Ms. Warren is an inactive member of the Texas Bar. Only, also at the Texas Bar website, there is a list there showing who is not eligible for inactive status. The list includes:
*Member engaged in providing private legal services in any state, whether such services are compensated or uncompensated. Such services include any actions or advice rendered to any person or entity in any matters connected with the law.
*Member who is a law clerk, briefing attorney, law librarian, or engaged in an activity that requires researching or briefing the law
*Member who is a full-time or part-time faculty member of any law school and who is either compensated or uncompensated
(There are more items, but these seem to be the most relevant.)
I also note that the form used to request inactive status says, “I, __________ certify, under the penalty of perjury, that no portion of my income is supplemented by my Texas Law License”. It also indicates the requestor “will not/have not practice(d) after this date” (the effective date on which the requestor is placed on the inactive rolls). It does give an option for stating that the requestor holds a position that requires an active license, which requires that “proof of active law license in another state” must be enclosed with the request form. But since she has given up her other license, and there is a question of whether and/or when it was “active”, per her own statements, how can she have been an inactive member of the Texas Bar since 1992?

The question has been framed fairly for the people of Massachusetts: “Do we elect someone who has not complied with generally acknowledged ethical duties in the following areas of her professional life:

a. Practice of law without a license.
b. “Pay for Play” fees in major legal cases–fees were not for “legal services” but for INFLUENCE under the table
c. GRIEVOUS impropriety in campaign contributions
d. False representations of “indian heritage”
e. Unjustified claims of “minority” status
f. Plagarism of “Pow Wow Chow” recipies
g. False “stories” about forbearers
h. Refusal to “meet and discuss” Cherokee representatives to engage in a dialogue about her “ancestry”


SO, “WHAT DO YOU SAY, MASSACHUSETTS?” Is this who you want to represent you? Every week, sometimes, every day, THERE ARE NEW REVELATIONS OF MISREPRESENTATION, undue influence, ethical breaches, etc.


Thought experiment: Warren is a Republican.

— Media gins this up into “crime of the century” status;
— Calls for her to drop out;
— GOP and voters jumping off her sinking ship so fast, everyone’s head would spin;
— Bar and DA investigations; charges probably pursued by both;
— GOP automatically loses this election.

How different (and so much better!) it is to be a Democrat. Almost makes me want to sign up, just to be on the winning side of these things from time to time!

Is there any way to force the BBO’s hand on this? To issue a ruling on EW’s law practice in the state?

[…] WARREN’S LEGAL TROUBLES MOUNT:  A former Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts is calling for a formal investigation … conducted for years from her Harvard Law School office, without a valid license to practice law in […]

What is the status of “Operation Counterweight”? What are the chances of a Republican Senate?

Warren is going to need an attorney registered in Mass.

If the professional legal rule benders of the State of Massachusetts desire not to punish Warren for practicing law without a valid license, then de facto IF anyone else so desires and meticulously follows the rules they also can practice law without a license.

Remember libs, these are your own rules of precedent and once you condone the breaking of a specific rule, the rule becomes archaic. Hence force and forever more no one needs a license to practice law in Massachusetts, because no one needs to pass the bar in Massachusetts. Who needs lawyers, right?

In fact, all you lawyers who got disbarred in other states, well here you go, you can now make the big bucks again to practice law with impunity.