The Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren is being shaped by the efforts of a blogger, Professor William Jacobson, of Legal Insurrection. This very high profile race reveals how important the internet has become to political discourse. Once upon a time, only newspapers could launch inquiries and crusades that determined the fate of powerful politicians, but now a single, intelligent, skilled, and determined individual like Jacobson can take on the might of the liberal establishment in Massachusetts, arguably the state most dominated by the academic and machine Democrat factions of the left, and give them a serious fight.
As most readers of AT know, Legal Insurrection has been pressing the inquiry into Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American ancestry, which preceded her leap into the major leagues of American legal education. More recently, Jacobson discovered that when she moved to Massachusetts to join the Harvard faculty, Warren never bothered to acquire a license to practice law. Many law professors, Warren included, have a lucrative side business as consultants, often writing briefs.
What happened next was a classic left wing move: generation of a meme that would enable the media establishment to ignore the scandal as discredited. For instance, in 1992, when Bill Clinton's former mistress Gennifer Flowers provided the tapes of Bill Clinton's phone calls to her, the campaign hired LA private eye (and subsequent guest of the Federal Bureau of Prisons) Anthony Pellicano to declare the tapes "doctored." He was cited as an "expert" by the media, which then refused to even consider the philandering behavior which was to prove so imporant to his second term in office.
In Warren's legal license case, an even more devious approach was taken. From Legal Insurrection:
...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 toMassachusetts 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....
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 Breitbart.com. Even Fredrickson now is refusing further comment, according toMichael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart.com.
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.
Jacobson's opinion did not vanish into the ether. In a move that gives me great heart:
The Massachusetts Republican Party has sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court complaining that Fredrickson appeared to politicize what is supposed to be a non-political office and judicial function.
Here is the letter:
For Immediate Release
October 8, 2012
MassGOP Sends Letter To SJC Questioning Recent Comments By Michael Fredrickson That "Appear To Advance A Partisan Agenda"
Boston- Today, MassGOP Chairman Bob Maginn sent the following letter to the Honorable Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland of the Supreme Judicial Court regarding recent comments made by Board of Bar Overseers General Counsel, Michael Fredrickson. The letter raises concerns about Mr. Fredrickson's public comments that "appear to advance a partisan agenda that is inconsistent with any agency within the judicial branch."
Supreme Judicial Court
The Honorable Roderick L. Ireland
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square, Suite 2500
Boston, MA 02108
October 8, 2012
RE: Michael Fredrickson
Dear Chief Justice Ireland:
I am writing to express concern that the Board of Bar Overseers General Counsel Michael Fredrickson has made public comments without the benefit of any investigation or due process regarding legality of U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's practice of law from her office in Cambridge without admission to the Massachusetts bar. Mindful that Attorney Fredrickson has a fine reputation as General Counsel to the Board of Bar Overseers ("BBO"), a fictional writer, and law professor, I am nonetheless compelled to make your office aware of his recent public statements, as follows:
- "Michael Fredrickson, general counsel for the BBO, says he does not believe a law professor would be considered to have 'a continuous presence' or 'an office practicing law.' 'If they actually practice here - as some part-time law professors at some of the smaller schools do - they might,' Fredrickson says. 'But being a professor at one of the large schools, their office is a professor's office, and the fact that they tend to dabble in the practice of law doesn't run afoul of our rule. I don't think Elizabeth Warren would fall within that, such that she would have to register here.' (Lisa Keen, "Warren law license matter called non-issue," Mass Lawyers Weekly, 9/24/12).
- "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.'" (http://legalinsurrection.com/2012/09/no-mass-board-of-bar-overseers-has-not-exonerated-elizabeth-warren/)
- "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.'" (http://legalinsurrection.com/2012/09/no-mass-board-of-bar-overseers-has-not-exonerated-elizabeth-warren/)
Taking into consideration the honored tradition of the Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") and the BBO with regard to not politicizing the carrying out of your respective responsibilities, Mr. Fredrickson's public comments appear to advance a partisan agenda that is inconsistent with any agency within the judicial branch. Foremost, Mr. Fredrickson's statements arrived in the public dialogue devoid of any formal investigation, fact finding, or proper evaluation. Further, upon consultation with counsel, I understand Mr. Fredrickson's conclusions to be incorrect. As a threshold, the part-time practice of law is not any less the practice of law; and, without an appropriate exception to the Rules of Professional Conduct, a license is required for the practice of law in the Commonwealth. Lastly, while I notice Mr. Fredrickson's repackaged his statements as those of his own and not of the BBO they still may be attributable as opinions of the SJC and the BBO without a formal correction.
In view of the aforementioned, it may be appropriate for the SJC or the BBO to issue a statement recognizing the lack of authority and enforceability of Mr. Fredrickson's personal views. Accordingly, with this correspondence, I deferentially request that the SJC issue a statement or direct the BBO to issue a statement to that effect.
Susan Mellen, Supreme Judicial Court, Clerk
Christine P. Burak, Legal Counsel to the Chief Justice
Michael Fredrickson, Board of Bar Overseers, General Counsel
David S. Mackey, Board of Bar Overseers, Chair
Thanks to the internet, unlike 1992, we can push back on the feints intended to bury stories. And thanks to the tenacious and skilful research of William Jacobson, those implicated in the media manipulation face some accountability, if only public shame, and possibly more.
The times, they are a changin'.