If some first-rate detective work done by Legal Insurrection proprietor William A. Jacobson gets the publicity it deserves, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate from Massachusetts may have far more trouble on her hands than her false claims of Native American ancestry. Despite maintaining a Cambridge law office for more than a decade, Jacobson has discovered that Warren has no license to practice law in that state.
Last Thursday's debate between Brown and Warren brought the issue into focus, albeit indirectly. "When you talk about who's side you're on, I'm on the side of the taxpayers," said Brown. "When you had a choice to make in your career, you chose to side with one of the biggest corporations in the United States, Travelers Insurance. You worked to prohibit all the people who got asbestos poisoning…she helped Travelers deny those benefits for asbestos poisoning… and made over $250,000 in an effort to protect big corporations…" Warren vehemently denied the charge. "It's just not true," she replied. "The Boston Globe has looked at this, they've written about it, and it's all clear: I've been out there for working families, I've been out there for working people…"
Warren is correct in one respect. The Boston Globe did indeed cover the story of her work for Travelers. "It is clear that Warren received a substantial amount of money to help the company win immunity from all future lawsuits, with the expectation that the company would have to pay the settlement," the paper reports. "But Warren’s work on the case may also have helped Travelers indirectly lay the groundwork for its current position, a position Warren and several other lawyers involved on both sides of the case say they did not foresee: where Travelers has immunity from most suits without having to pay the settlement." With respect to remuneration, the paper revealed that the "$212,000 she earned from Travelers from 2008 to 2010 was included in Warren’s government disclosure forms," confirming Scott's allegations. Yet the most damming aspect of the Globe's report was the fact that Warren "would not say how much she has earned for her outside work in these and other cases."
Enter Jacobson, who reveals that Warren represented "not just Travelers, but numerous other companies starting in the late 1990s working out of and using her Harvard Law School office in Cambridge, which she listed as her office of record on briefs filed with various courts." He explains the implications of that representation, noting that "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," he writes.
Jacobson conducted a search of the Board of Bar Overseers attorney search website under both the Senate candidate's married last name of Warren, as well as her maiden name, Elizabeth Herring. He confirmed his search with two telephone calls to the person responsible for verifying attorney status. His suspicions were confirmed: "there was no record of Warren ever having been admitted to practice in Massachusetts," he writes.
Jacobson investigated further, revealing that Warren's own listing of her status on her curriculum vitae dated June 25, 2008 shows that she was licensed to practice law in Texas and New Jersey. Yet a review of her Texas Bar Information reveals that she is not currently eligible to be licensed in that state either. It is unclear when Warren went on inactive status in Texas. As for New Jersey, Warren became licensed to practice law in that state in 1977. Yet as Jacobson reveals, the continuity of her status there is also in question. The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners and the New Jersey Lawyers Fund For Client Protection indicate that Warren resigned her license on September 11, 2012, but neither organization could confirm whether her license was continuously active during the entire period from 1977-2012. There is speculation that Warren's resignation was tendered specifically to prevent that information from getting out. Jacobson is endeavoring to find out, having submitted the necessary request in writing.
He further notes that despite her representation of Travelers, where she "was listed as 'Of Counsel' on Travelers’ Supreme Court Brief, listing her Harvard Law School office as her office address," it remained unclear whether she was actively licensed anywhere at that time.
Yesterday morning, Jacobson's investigation bore fruit. Speaking to Boston's 96.9 FM radio program "Jim and Margery," Warren was forced to admit she is not licensed to practice law in Massachusetts. She further claimed that she does not maintain a law practice, and that she resigned from the New Jersey bar because "she could not keep up with the Continuing Education requirements" of that state.
Legally speaking, Warren has little to worry about. At most, she faces six months in jail and a fine of $100 for "unauthorized practice of law," and/or "solicitation of business," according to Massachusetts law. Yet her offense may be outside the six-year statute of limitation for the law, and her involvement with Travelers and other cases may have been at the federal level, absolving her from wrongdoing, if it cannot be proven that prep work for such cases was done in the state. Adding to the unlikelihood of her getting into trouble is the reality that such an investigation would be conducted by the state Attorney General's office. That office is run by Martha Coakley, a fellow Democrat who lost to Scott Brown in the special Senate election of 2010 necessitated by the death of Ted Kennedy. And even if an investigation were pursued, the chance it would be completed before the election is virtually nil.
Furthermore, Warren has an obvious fallback position. In a profession where even the word "is" is subject to debate, the Democratic Senate candidate can claim that despite having an office in Cambridge, she has never actually told anyone she is a licensed attorney in that state--and the people who assumed she was have no one to blame but themselves for that mis-perception. Barring the appearance of someone willing to testify under oath to the contrary, such an assertion would seem to be viable. Weaselly, but viable.
On the other hand, for the second time in less that a year, Elizabeth Warren has been exposed as a fraud. Whether such dishonesty becomes a "game changer" in one of the bluer states in the nation, where Democrats maintain a 3:1 registration advantage over Republicans, remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen if the same mainstream media that has given Warren a big pass for her "Fauxcahontas" fiction will be as willing to dismiss this bit of news as readily as they did that one. It will be even more fascinating to see which Democrats, if any, come to the defense of a woman whose "biography" seemingly contains yet another chapter of fiction.
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