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Massachusetts BBO General Counsel has some explaining to do

Massachusetts BBO General Counsel has some explaining to do

Issued speculative “personal” opinion

As detailed here before, within hours of my posting about Elizabeth Warren’s lack of a Massachusetts law license, Michael Fredrickson, the General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, gave an interview to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in which he defended Warren.

Fredrickson did not indicate in the interview as reported that he was speaking in any capacity other than on behalf of the BBO and seemed to be exonerating Warren.

That Mass Lawyers Weekly interview has been the basis for the defense of Warren.  After all, if the General Counsel of the entity with quasi-regulatory authority publicly announced a conclusion, why treat the issue seriously?  Even The Boston Globe has a similar quote from Fredrickson today, and uses that quote to dismiss the issue out of hand.

Yet the issue is serious, as even people who did not initially agree with me have acknowledged.

Fredrickson effectively quashed the public discussion by virtue of his title and position.

Fredrickson later admitted, however, that he was not speaking on behalf of the BBO and was not reaching any conclusions as to Warren individually because he knew so little about her practice:

Fredrickson confirmed that he did make the comments attributed to him in MLW, but also made clear that he was not speaking on behalf of the BBO.

Fredrickson said it was his “personal reading” of the law, and that he was “not speaking on behalf of the Board of Bar Overseers.”

Fredrickson also stated, in response to my question, that he was not speaking on behalf of the Bar Counsel, the office vested with investigatory and prosecutorial function at the BBO.  Fredrickson did indicate, though, that as a practical matter registration issues usually are referred to him.

Fredrickson stated that he did not purport to determine whether Warren violated the applicable law.  He said he was just “speaking hypothetically” and not specifically as to Warren because “I know so little about Elizabeth Warren and her practice.”

Since Fredrickson’s initial interview, even more evidence has come out about Warren’s law practice, which now totals at least 22 documented court cases handled from her Cambridge office, plus other non-court case consulting she will not disclose.

Why did Fredrickson jump to Warren’s defense within hours, and why did he issue an opinion about her without making clear that he was not speaking for the BBO and that he did not have any meaningful factual basis for his conclusions?

Normally, Bar officials everywhere are very closed-mouthed about matters under their jurisdiction.  Indeed, the Massachusetts Bar Counsel, a separate office which investigates and prosecutes, did not respond to requests for comment from  Even Fredrickson now is refusing further comment, according to Michael Patrick Leahy at

While Fredrickson no longer is talking publicly, his prior “personal” opinion, which was not based on an actual knowledge of Warren’s law practice, hangs out there as the purported BBO verdict exonerating Warren.  That creates a false impression which should be remedied.


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“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” 🙂

JimMtnViewCaUSA | October 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm

“Why did Fredrickson jump to Warren’s defense within hours…”
Maybe his political opinions trumped his professional responsibilities?

Maybe Fredrickson himself needs to be investigated and disciplined by the Bar Association.

A guy can dream…

    counsel4pay in reply to CalMark. | October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    NO DREAM. My exposition with specific provisions of MASS ethics laws and references to a controlling authority are found below.


Seems to me that Michael Fredrickson, with the highly-inflated title of General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, should himself stand for investigation of his breaches of the ethical standards expected of Mass. lawyers.

Or will we see corruption practiced right in front of our eyes with Fredrickson and his cohorts issuing him full immunity for his indiscretions.

Well, BBO?

The Boston Globe reporters didn’t have the decency to name your blog. Shame on them.

Professor Jacobson: whatever happened to your written request to the New Jersey Bar about Warren’s inactive license?

At this point I would keep investigating her and forget about that idiot Frederickson.

I previously referred to Frederickson (when only his initial comment to the press had been released) as an “ignorant functionary.” I take that back. Now I would characterize him as not simply an “ignorant functionary” but rather as a lawyer/quasi public official who has acted unethically. He and Warren should both be investigated. Brown and probably anybody else in MA could file a complaint with the MA Bar.


While I am not licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, I have passed other states legal and ethical examinations and requirements and am licensed in multiple venues. EVERY STATE, EVEN MASS, HAS A DIZZYING AND FIERCE BODY OF ETHICAL RULES WHICH APPLY TO THIS WHOLE “WARREN AS CANDIDATE” MESS.

Specifically, MASS has a Rule of Professional Conduct which is somewhat different from that of other states (who use the “ABA Model Rules”). ONE KEY “CUSTOM” MASS RULE HERE = 8.2 (see also, ft.1):

“A lawyer SHALL NOT MAKE A STATEMENT that the lawyer knows to be false or WITH RECKLESS DISREGARD AS TO ITS TRUTH OR FALSITY concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge or a magistrate, or OF A CANDIDTE FOR APPOINTMENT TO JUDICIAL OR LEGAL OFFICE. (Emphasis added.)

“[Official] Comment

“[1] Assessments by lawyers are relied on in evaluating the professional or personal fitness of persons being considered for election or appointment to judicial or legal offices. Expressing honest and candid opinions on such matters contributes to improving the administration of justice. Conversely, FALSE STATEMENTS BY A LAWYER CAN UNFAIRLY UNDERMINE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.” [Emphasis added.]


ALTERNATIVELY PHRASED: This paragon of Mass. ethics has presumptively violated the rules he was hired to enforce. What reasonable and appropriate consequences flow from this act?

In the states where I practice, the following could and should occur?

* Mr. Fredrickson owes an IMMEDIATE DUTY OF CORRECTION (I will not cross-reference other pertinent provisions of the law, some of which may not be shared by the People Republic of Massacusetts). “TIME TO COME CLEAN” AND RENOUNCE HIS INSUPPORTABLE OPINION–PROFESSIONAL OR PRIVATE CAPACITY DISTINCTIONS DO NOT EXIST AS TO RUL 8.2
* Mr. Fredrickson must GIVE FAIR NOTICE THAT HE MUST BE RECUSED FROM ANY FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF THIS MATTER–he’s been shown to violate his own prohibitions and cannot be trusted.
* Mr. Fredrickson must be evaluated BY THE MASS BAR as an EMPLOYEE and OFFICER of that entity.
* Mr. Fredrickson may be SUBJECTED TO COMPLAINT PER THE MASS ETHICAL RULES AND STANDARDS about which he appers deficient in either knowledge or willingness to obey.
* In some states, the class of “aggrieved persons” with standing to attack Mr. Fredrickson’s “hypothetical opinions” IS AS BROAD AS THE POPULATION OF THE STATE.


“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;
* * *
c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;

(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;

* * *

h) engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on his or her fitness to practice law.

Note also COMMENT [3]: Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer’s abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of lawyer. The same is true of abuse of positions of private trust such as trustee, executor, administrator, guardian, agent and officer, director or manager of a corporation or other organization.

    Would you please lay off the ALL CAPS. While this is a serious and contentious issue, you DONT NEED TO SHOUT.

      counsel4pay in reply to Rich Vail. | October 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      I do need to.
      I will not stop for your convenience.
      I respectfully suggest “YOU DO NOT GET IT”

      The fate of our Republic hangs in the balance.
      Barbarians at our gates, killing our envoy, desecrating his body, murdering his staff and guards, defacing our flag, pillaging our very ground (Int’l law–it’s OURS.)

      To the enemies outside American come enemies INSIDE America–lying, deceitful, traitorous. These include the Elizabeth Warrens of our Republic.

      If you are not alarmed, you are not aware.
      I would use fewer caps if the traditional emphasis tools were more readily available: italics; bold; underlined; etc.


Yeah um. When the General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, speaks to the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (a periodical I assume to be generally focused on issues concerning MASSACHEUSETTS LAW, MEMBERS OF THE BAR AND ANY ISSUES THAT FALL UNDER THOSE HEADINGS. Particularly issues that would be in the perview of the BOARD OF BAR OVERSEERS.) One should be forgiven if one assumes that that individual is expressing an opinion formulated and founded on his present position and experience in that position.

For that individual to later make caveats that one might possibly hear from a sophisticated 13 year old is disingenuous at the least and might possibly be earning that person some scrutiny from the Bar Overseers themselves.

Seems he was attempting to “Ben Smith” the questions inspired by Prof. Jacobsons inquiries and utterly failed and then had his ineptitude exposed for all to see and question.

I think the Bar Overseers should question Mr. Frederickson closely as to his motivations and judgment and then go on to investigate the question of whether Ms. Warner has been practicing law in Mass. without a license.

Perhaps some member in good standing of the Mass. Bar might want to make inquiries as to these points. It’s important that the citizenry be assured that those to whom they turn for legal counsel are themselves following the law.

The BBO needs to address the Frederickson issue, Warren is not a member of the bar so any issue goes to the Attorney General. What is there in dispute? She admits she is not a member of the bar in Massachusetts.

How should it be done, if the BBO doesn’t show him the door or if he doesn’t resign? He may leave after the election. Stay silent, til then?

It seems that Harvard Law School is teaching correctly in regards to the license to practice. They would not condone what she did. But again, tbey stay silent.

    counsel4pay in reply to ReneeA. | October 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm



    I could provide CASE CITATIONS AND DISCUSSIONS from other states, but those would not be binding on MASS. Let MASS attorneys or disciplinary staff “police their own house”–is that asking too much?

    With all due respect to my “brothers in law” in MASS, THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. None of the formal rules, “comments” to the formal rules, or other possible “ethical considerations” REALLY EXCEED COMMON SENSE AND MINIMAL STANDARDS OF “FAIR PLAY”.

    I do thank Providence that I have always practiced throughout the Western United States–we may be crude, but when our “brothers in law” sin, THEY DO SO KNOWINGLY (and too often!).

What triggers a Bar Counsel investigation, I wonder? Is a complaint necessary, or may the office institute it’s own investigations? Regardless, Professor Warren will have professional issues to deal with for the forseeable future, and possibly a political problem if our own much appreciated Prof. Jacobson can succeed in bringing these questions before the public.

Voters may decide these issues are critical to an understanding of the candidate or they may decide they are not important at all, but a responsible press, a press worthy of a free republic, should and would make sure the voters are at least aware of the issue.

So, Globe, how about it? Print some news, maybe?

As I recall, Fredrickson said it’s OK if you are a law professor at a “large school” [not small school] to occasionally “dabble” [not dibble] in the law. Where, oh where, do we find such people? When I read his original justification, I found myself howling in laughter for hours!

I wonder if any discipline will be meted to anybody at all … including Warren. As Howie Carr truly knows, MA politics is one hell of a hackerama.

    counsel4pay in reply to walls. | October 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I heartily approve of your comments, but also trust that the “dabble” rule (with which I agree, “generally”) SURELY CANNOT APPLY HERE–WARREN HAS NOT “DABBLED”–SHE HAS ENGAGED IN A CONCERTED SCHEME OF “PAY FOR PLAY” AND UNADMITTED PRACTICE on a scale and at for fees which would shame any ordinary mortal.

Lawyers need to worry about their own license, not Warren. As much as it may be offensive, all they need to care about is their own practice of law. Don’t fault them for not protesting.

But her mom once told her that it’s ok to practice law without a license. End of story 😉

I and others filed Bar complaints against a prosecutor in California. The Bar has been investigating the prosecutor for over a year, but to date they have refused to discuss the investigation with reporters. They’re incredibly tight lipped and strict about releasing information. I thought Massachusetts would have been stricter than California!

So, will anyone be filing a complaint against Frederickson? Have people filed complaints against Warren?

Prof. Jacobson,
White mans laws do not apply to the red man.

[…] with Massachusetts bar regulations requiring registration and licensing of lawyers, even though she handled many cases from her office in Massachusetts, including cases involving Massachusetts clients and Massachusetts […]

Grampa.Grumpus | October 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Perhaps it is time for all those who have violated those same rules of conduct that fauxie did, but to a lesser (and less lucrative) degree, and were sanctioned in someway to initiate action against MA’s governing body.

We are suppose to apply the laws equally, are we not? If not, if these “Officers of the Court” feel that such a blatant, obvious, and brightly visible violation such as this – when committed by Progressives in pursuit of political gain – is just collateral damage to be overlooked and swept under the rug “for The Greater Good” then to what purpose their Oaths? Their Oaths are become the rustling of leaves and the chirps of crickets: pretty but ultimately worthless!

And then “The Law Before Which We Stood Equal” has become “the law of the powerful, privileged, and connected”. The reason to live within them is gone because it has become as a wind: blowing here and there as is expedient to justify and affirm the deeds of the powerful!

Oh, that my Beloved Country recovers from these reavers!

Yeah. Her mom says her family comes from a long line of law professors.

Her father’s family were ambulance chasers wrongful injury Councilors so they had to elope to get married.

Her mom would pass by her Aunt’s picture and mention that all of the lawyers on that side of the family had high pockets and wore seersucker suits in court.

But she’s only repeating what her family told her.

Fredrickson did what he needed to do to provide cover for Liecenseawatha. Cover provided, no need for further comment. Case decided before examination of the facts. Typical Democrat.

BannedbytheGuardian | October 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Do whores need to be licensed in MA?

There is your answer.

TrooperJohnSmith | October 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Okay. And so we will have [yawwwwwn] one more Democratic politician with a suspended or revoked law license.

It’s becoming as unique as a tattoo and almost as obligatory.

Elemental Democrat Truth #153: Laws, statutes and qualification requirements apply to other people, because as a Democratic politician, apparatchik, community organizer or “other functionary,” you are kinder, more caring and hold a moral superiority in all manner of social, legal, political and executive activities and/or discourse. All manner of non-compliance, violations or unmet exigencies are unaccountable under this section.(See also: “For the chilllllldren”)

Since it appears not to be such a really big deal to so many, or at least not punishable, to illegally practice law in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren’s case could become a real precedent to allow hundreds if not thousand of new “law practitioners” flooding Boston and beyond to set up shop. I see hourly attorney rates precipitously dropping and certainly more work coming for the Appellate Courts.

“Fredrickson said it was his “personal reading” of the law…”

I don’t know many lawyers, but the ones I do know are _very_ careful about making “readings of the law” (personal or otherwise). Especially if they’re aware they don’t know much about the situation. And it sounds like he admits he didn’t know much about her practice when he came to his opinion.

“The cop told me I had the right to remain silent. Only problem is… I lacked the ability…” -Ron White (I think). I think maybe Fredrickson had the same problem.