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Judicial Watch Files Complaint Against RI Sen. Whitehouse Alleging Unauthorized Practice of Law

Judicial Watch Files Complaint Against RI Sen. Whitehouse Alleging Unauthorized Practice of Law

“Senator Whitehouse is violating basic legal ethics in threatening the Supreme Court while engaging in the unauthorized practice of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “He should be held accountable for these abuses.”

Monday, Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of Rhode Island’s Supreme Court against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, alleging he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

The complaint alleges “Whitehouse filed a brief with U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of four clients while maintaining inactive status and that the brief was nothing more than an attack on the federal judiciary and an open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court.

We previously wrote about that Whitehouse brief, Dem Senators to Supreme Court: Rule our way on 2nd Amendment case, or face possible restructuring.

In a letter to the chairman of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, Judicial Watch wrote:

Judicial Watch files this unauthorized practice of law complaint against Rhode Island bar member U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of four clients while maintaining inactive status. In addition, the brief Senator Whitehouse filed was unbecoming of the legal profession as it is nothing more than an attack on the federal judiciary and an open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the Rhode Island Judiciary website, Senator Whitehouse maintains inactive status. As an inactive member of the Rhode Island bar, Senator Whitehouse cannot practice law in Rhode Island. However, on August 12, 2019, Senator Whitehouse did just that. He filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Senators Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Richard Durbin, and Kirsten Gillibrand. The filing of a brief – let alone all that is required to file a brief – on behalf of clients is indisputably the practice of law.

To be clear, Senator Whitehouse may not have spoken to his clients, researched the law, or written the brief in Rhode Island. However, he provided a Providence, Rhode Island address to the Rhode Island Judiciary. In addition, there is no dispute that Senator Whitehouse is a Rhode Island resident and spends a substantial amount of his time in Rhode Island. If Senator Whitehouse is practicing law in another jurisdiction, it is merely incidental or temporary. Under the rules, Senator Whitehouse was practicing law in Rhode Island.

In addition, to Judicial Watch’s knowledge, Senator Whitehouse is not authorized to practice law in another jurisdiction. Senator Whitehouse lists a Washington, D.C. address on the brief; yet, according to the District of Columbia Bar website, Senator Whitehouse is not a member of the DC Bar.  Therefore, if Senator Whitehouse claims he was not practicing law in Rhode Island but in Washington, D.C., he violated the “Unauthorized Practice of Law” rule of D.C.

Besides practicing law without the proper authorization, Senator Whitehouse also violated the Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct by attacking the federal judiciary and openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief concludes:

The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it to be “restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.” Particularly on the urgent issue of gun control, a nation desperately needs it to heal.

In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court does not rule the way Senator Whitehouse and his clients prefer, they will use their power as Senators to restructure the Court.

Such a threat violates the spirit if not the letter of Rhode Island’s Rules of Professional Conduct. As the preamble explains:

  • “A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”
  • “A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges.”
  • “A lawyer should further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system.”
  • A lawyer should “maintain a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.”

Attacking the federal judiciary and openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court is unbecoming for a member of the legal profession as well as a sitting U.S. Senator. Senator Whitehouse’s assertion, without basis, that the Court does not rule on the merits of cases but rather on partisan beliefs undermines confidence in the legal system. It is one thing for a politician to make such a claim on the campaign trail, it is another for a lawyer to make such a charge as part of a legal proceeding. In doing so, Senator Whitehouse has violated the rules of professional conduct.

The misconduct of Senator Whitehouse noted above appears obvious on its face. Senator Whitehouse either violated Rhode Island’s or D.C.’s rules, or both. Senator Whitehouse’s filing of a brief on behalf of clients without an active law license anywhere in the country is inexcusable. Senator Whitehouse’s attack on the federal judiciary and open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court raises substantial questions about his character and fitness to practice law. His actions warrant a full investigation by the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.

Sen. Whitehouse gained national notoriety during the confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh when he used his time to grill the judge over a fart joke in his high school year book.

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Comments

Michael Johnson | August 19, 2019 at 9:30 pm

US Senators have an oath of office to defend the Constitution. He violates that routinely.

    No Muslim or Democrat can, with an honest heart, take the oath (5 USC 3331),

    An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

“Sen. Whitehouse gained national notoriety during the confirmation hearings for Justice Kavanaugh when he used his time to grill the judge over a fart joke in his high school year book.”

I hope that line makes it all the way to his obituary (not any time soon, and not by my hand).

    Miles in reply to Valerie. | August 20, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Oh, he could vapor lock today, miss his step and fall into the path of a passing bus, choke on a piece of steak tonight, have a myocardial infarct or burst a major artery in an act of passion and I wouldn’t weep a single tear.

Comanche Voter | August 19, 2019 at 9:54 pm

Old Senator Whorehouse has a bad case of the intellectual clap.

While it’s fun to read, this filing was a form a paper masturbation just like Whitehouse’s. Nothing will come of it.

Actually, he did not.
However his reputed and attempted ability to decipher High School yearbooks at the Kavanaugh hearings is the unauthorized use of stupidity.

caseoftheblues | August 19, 2019 at 10:28 pm

Markinct….so in other words laws, regulations and standards for lawyers conduct are meaningless and never actually applied or adhered to….?

    markinct in reply to caseoftheblues. | August 20, 2019 at 7:06 am

    I think it’s safe to say that the rules only apply to the great unwashed. The best we can look for is a firmly worded Post-It note. There will be zero penalty and even fewer consequences for Whitehouse.

Much as I despise Whitehouse, this seems thin. Is it really legitimate to allege he violated rules of conduct for a profession he has no license to practice? And how much did these alleged clients pay him for these so-called services?

Yes, it was a naked political attack. But this complaint seems like one, too. I would really like to see our side do better.

    redc1c4 in reply to irv. | August 20, 2019 at 12:42 am

    i’d rather i see our side win, by any means necessary.

    we didn’t pick the rules, but we’re gonna have to fight by them.

    do you want to win or lose?

    pick one, and no hemming and hawing allowed.

    win or lose?

    George_Kaplan in reply to irv. | August 20, 2019 at 2:44 am

    Whitehouse could be imprisoned, fined, or both if he’s found to be guilty of practicing law without a licence. If he wants to play at law why not hold him to it?

    Close The Fed in reply to irv. | August 20, 2019 at 4:25 am

    Irv, I’m a lawyer and I have to be concerned with the bar rules all the time. Folks I know with a higher volume of practice deal with complaints to the bar all the time and it sucks up a lot of their energy.

    Whitehouse needs to follow the rules and work to disband the mandatory bar and mandatory licensing rules.

    Virginia42 in reply to irv. | August 20, 2019 at 6:06 am

    That one seems to answer itself. He has no business practicing the law if he’s not currently active. Of course this is political claptrap and nonsense, something the Dims traffic in constantly these days.

    sdharms in reply to irv. | August 20, 2019 at 6:37 am

    it is not a “thin” complaint if we have the rule of law. If officers of the court are not held to some standard then we might as well settle everything with a gunfight at high noon. but even those had standards. Whitehouse is a trust fund kid who has never had a job. Has he EVER practiced law, licensed law that is?

      Close The Fed in reply to sdharms. | August 20, 2019 at 10:18 am

      Sd, I agree with almost everything you said, except about “officers of the court.” I inadvertently researched this when I sued three judges about 30 years ago.

      It doesn’t hinge on them being “officers of the court.” There is law against unauthorized practice. You can be indicted for it and it’s a criminal offense. He should be indicted.

      Don’t know why they ONLY made a complaint to the bar.

Close The Fed | August 20, 2019 at 4:26 am

*Or work to disband, etc.

Democrats believe, not without reason, that they’re exempt from the laws of this country.

That’s truly a beautiful writing.

Who cares? Why do conservatives think procedure is a magic wand you can wave to get out of this nightmare. It won’t and can’t.

    Valerie in reply to forksdad. | August 20, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    As others have said, the Fitton brief merely states the rule I have to follow. There is no legitimate reason why those laws should apply to every lawyer in the country, except Mr. Whitehouse.

At the absolute minimum, this fool/tool is guilty of committing conversation without intelligence. At his level, it could be a capital offense.

“A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”

So, you’re not supposed to threaten someone with ruinously costly litigation if defendant doesn’t settle?

Good luck with prohibiting that. Why, you’d shut down at least half of all federal agencies. Not to mention the losses at more than a few law firms.

I find Whitehouse distasteful. Nevertheless, the Debate Clause of the Constitution grants any representative broad immunity for statements. .. “…and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”

He managed to embarrass other lawyers, no mean feat.

OleDirtyBarrister | August 20, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Nothing will happen with the Rhode Island Bar, it does not want the fight or the retaliation.

If true that the Senator didn’t pay up to maintain an active status with his state bar association he has some issues. Potential criminal charge (unlikely but one can dream). Certainly an admonishment from his state bar as a minimum.

Being a Senator doesn’t come with a licence to practice law. It is that simple. Now had he placed the brief into the congressional record and had a staff attorney file the brief that would be another horse entirely. Instead he tried to put on his big boy lawyer pants but forgot to change his status to active. A brief filed by a staff attorney would have far less media cachet than one filed by a Senator. He walked in to this trying to be ‘a boss’; so let him pay the price in hurt pride, bar association admonishment and a criminal referral for unlicensed practice of law.

Back home, this guy is routinely referred to as Weldon Shitehouse.

Is Whitehouse admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court? That is lifetime without annual dues. Some federal courts are lifetime too with no dues or fees. But others now charge annual dues or fees.

I am a member of the Supreme Court Bar. I remember that Senator Warren avoided punishment for unauthorized practice because she was admitted to the federal bar someplace (maybe bankruptcy court) so they held she could practice law even though she was no longer admitted to practice law in any state.

I wonder if membership to the federal bar in any of those lifetime, no annual dues/fees jurisdictions require members to be active in any states.

Do you have to be an “active” lawyer to file a brief in a Supreme Court case?

Is there a requirement that only a member of the bar can file an amicus brief? I don’t see anything in a quick glance at the Supreme Court rules.

If only a member of the bar can file a brief then which bar? Can a non-attorney technical expert file an amicus brief in some case related to that expertise?

Is this going to embarrass or get back at Sen Whitehouse at the expense of a bad precedent?

Sheldon Chithouse isn’t qualified to hold the office of dog catcher of the municipality he hails from,let alone any other office. Probably won’t happen but he deserves hard time for his crime.

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