This is some extraordinary detective work performed by Legal Insurrection's William Jacobson. Digging through voluminous records and following up with calls to pertinent licensing agencies, Jacobson has made the shocking discovery that Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is not licensed to practice law in the state of Massachusetts.
The fact that Warren used her Harvard Law School office to dispense legal advice, write briefs, and represent clients -- all activities that meet the legal definition of "practicing law" -- is also problematic, as Jacobsen explains:
As detailed below, there are at least two provisions of Massachusetts law Warren may have violated. First, on a regular and continuing basis she used her Cambridge office for the practice of law without being licensed in Massachusetts. Second, in addition to operating an office for the practice of law without being licensed in Massachusetts, Warren actually practiced law in Massachusetts without being licensed.
Warren refused to disclose the full extent of her private law practice when asked by The Boston Globe. If Warren denies that she has practiced law in Massachusetts without a license, Warren should disclose the full extent of her private law practice. The public has a right to assess whether Warren has failed to comply with the most basic requirement imposed on others, the need to become a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to practice law in and from Massachusetts.
As any good lawyer, Jacobson builds his case methodically, thoroughly, and dispassionately. The evidence is overwhelming and the good professor followed up with phone calls that confirmed his findings:
I confirmed with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers by telephone that Warren never has been admitted to practice in Massachusetts. I had two conversations with the person responsible for verifying attorney status. In the first conversation the person indicated she did not see any entry for Warren in the computer database, but she wanted to double check. I spoke with her again several hours later, and she indicated she had checked their files and also had spoken with another person in the office, and there was no record of Warren ever having been admitted to practice in Massachusetts.
Warren's own listing of her Bar admissions is consistent with not being licensed in Massachusetts. In a June 25, 2008 CV Warren listed only Texas and New Jersey.
Warren's Texas Bar information indicates she is not eligible to be licensed in Texas, but does not indicate when she went on that inactive status. Consistent with our finding that Warren was not admitted in Massachusetts, Warren listed only one other place of admission on her Texas record, New Jersey:
This information should be a game changer. But in deep blue Massachusetts, will voters avert their eyes to these transgressions and vote for Warren anyway? It's a distinct possibility but at the very least, it gives GOP candidate Senator Scott Brown some potent ammunition. Much will depend on how the Massachusetts media responds to this new information. Will they dismiss it because it comes from a blogger? Or will they act like journalists and work to confirm Jacobson's charges?
It should be a very rough few days for Elizabeth Warren.
Thomas Lifson adds:
Elizabeth Warren is far from the first lawyer to move to Massachusetts and join the Harvard Law School faculty. The question of practicing law from her office almost certainly came up in the process of her joining the faculty. When I joined the Harvard Business School faculty in 1978, the outside consulting that I did from my office on campus was subject to strict reporting requirements, and received scrutiny from the Dean. There were limits on how much consulting one could do, and the nature of the clients and engagements were evaluated. Of course, I was a mere junior faculty member with the ink barely dry on my PhD. Nevertheless, I know that senior faculty at HBS faced the same reporting and scrutiny at the time.
I have to assume that Warren faced review of her outside legal activity from former-Dean Elena Kagan, among others. I wonder how Justice Kagan can explain the apparent fact that she allowed Professor Warren to practice law in Massachusetts without a license?