William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has started a bit of a kerfuffle by accusing Elizabeth Warren of practicing law without a license. She was never licensed in Massachusetts, and wasn’t required to be in order to teach law. His accusations center around her filing of briefs and giving of advice in various federal court cases.
Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly now has a poll out asking whether Warren should be investigated. http://masslawyersweekly.com/
At the same time, MLW itself basically admits the accusations are bogus.
Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(d) provides that: “A lawyer admitted in another United States jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in any jurisdiction, may provide legal services in this jurisdiction that: …
(2) are services that the lawyer is authorized to provide by federal law or other law of this jurisdiction.”
Warren was admitted to practice law in New Jersey in 1977 and “resigned without prejudice” this year, according to Jacobson. He speculates, without providing any evidence, that she may have let her license lapse at some point in between. While we’re playing this game, I speculate without evidence that he’s an illegal Canadian immigrant and should be deported. Where’s the birth certificate?
So all available evidence indicates she was admitted to practice in another US jurisdiction. The remaining question is whether federal law gave her the right to represent clients before the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the only case Jacobson cites where she practiced before a court even arguably “within this jurisdiction.”
So let’s look at the First Circuit’s rules. Rule 46.0(a)(1) states “An attorney is eligible for admission to the bar of a court of appeals if that attorney is of good moral and professional character and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court of a state [emphasis mine], another United States court of appeals, or a United States district court…” And since Rule 46.0(a)(3) allows an applicant to be admitted “by oral motion in open court”, there is no reason to believe there would be written evidence of Warren’s admission to practice before the first circuit, there’s no need to be alarmed by the absence of such. It’s basically just a formality, so the fact that she was able to appear as counsel in a 1st Circuit case is the best indicator that she met that requirement.
Warren was licensed to practice in another state and federal law allowed her to practice before the First Circuit. There is no substance to these accusations at all. So go vote no in the poll, and if someone tells you about this unlicensed practice of law story, tell them it’s false.