Report: Warren may have illegally practiced law in Mass. without license

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren may have practiced law in Massachusetts for years without a license to do so, according to a newly surfaced report.

Republican Sen. Scott Brown — whom Warren is challenging — reminded viewers that Warren helped represent The Travelers Insurance Company on an asbestos case which reached the Supreme Court in 2009.

In May, the Boston Globe reported that Warren argued that case before the Supreme Court. “Six months after Elizabeth Warren arrived in Washington to work as an adviser to Congress, she experienced another career milestone in the nation’s capital, a seat at the US Supreme Court’s mahogany counsel table,” the Globe wrote. “The 2009 appearance was the only time Warren helped represent a party before the nation’s highest court. And it provides a rare window into a less-heralded aspect of the Harvard Law professor’s career, her time as a working attorney in the courts.”

According to the Legal Insurrection blog, this was hardly the only case Warren was involved in. “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,” Legal Insurrection’s William A. Jacobson reported on Monday morning.

There’s just one caveat: “Warren, however, never has been licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.”

“Warren is not licensed to practice law in Massachusetts,” Jacobson wrote. “Warren’s name does not turn up on a search of the Board of Bar Overseers attorney search website (searches just by last name or using Elizabeth Herring also do not turn up any relevant entries).”

“I confirmed with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers by telephone that Warren never has been admitted to practice in Massachusetts,” Jacobson added. “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.”

According to Jacobson’s report and documents contained within, Warren listed her “Harvard Law School office as her office address” on legal briefs.

“The clear record shows that since the late 1990s Warren has held herself out as representing litigants using her Harvard Law School address, and there is every reason to believe the work was performed in Massachusetts, in some cases utilizing student help,” Jacobson wrote. “The listings above are not exhaustive, and there may be cases not reported in electronic databases, in which Warren has acted as counsel using her Cambridge address. For example, if Warren rendered legal advice but did not appear on the Brief or enter a court appearance, there would be no record.  State court case briefs and appearances also are not captured by databases to the extent of federal cases.”

If she did similar work at the state court level in Massachusetts, it’s a demonstrable violation of the law, Jacobson concluded. She reportedly refused to provide the Boston Globe with records of any state-level Massachusetts legal work.

Normally, a violation of this law would bring – according to Massachusetts law – a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine of up $100. But in Warren’s case, her alleged violations could be outside the six-year statute of limitations for the law. She also may have only practiced in federal court in Massachusetts, which could absolve her of wrongdoing if it cannot be proven any of the legal preparation work was done in the state.

A spokeswoman for Warren’s campaign has not immediately returned TheDC’s request for comment.

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