Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Obama Law Licenses: Trust But Verify, Just Not on FactCheck.org

When someone goes to law school to study law, there is no guarantee that he or she will ever practice law. Indeed, there are a number of people who go to law school and NEVER practice law. For example, Mitt Romney earned a joint law degree (JD) and masters in business administration (MBA) from Harvard. He never practiced law, but the knowledge he gained undoubtedly came in handy in his business pursuits.

It takes more than just a degree from law school to practice law. You must generally pass the bar in the state(s) in which you want to practice. Some states have reciprocity with others, meaning if you are granted the right to practice in one you can apply to practice in the other. They do this favor for each other's lawyers, if you will. Most states require that you also be registered with the state's bar association, and that you pay an annual fee and meet the continuing legal education requirements (CLEs). As long as you pay your fees, keep up with your CLEs (which requirements vary from state to state), and avoid any disciplinary actions you can maintain a license in that state for as long as you like.

Most states have no residency requirement once you are licensed. You may have to document that you are providing some services in the state, but for the most part you can live outside the state in which you maintain a license. I am a case in point -- I live in a state in which I am not registered or licensed, and I work in a different state in which I am not registered or licensed. As long as my practice is limited in scope and I do not actually represent people in public actions, this is permitted.

At one time in my early years of practice, I took the bar of a neighboring state. My firm handled some business for clients in that state, so I was asked to study for that bar. I passed it and was sworn in. However, I never took part in any cases in that second state. So, when I left the firm to go out on my own, I had to minimize expenses. That annual fee was one of the first expenses I cut. If I wanted to go back and reinstate it at this point, I would have to take that state's bar exam again. That's not happening. I am too old, and the stress of a two-day exam in a room filled with a couple thousand mid-twenties suit-clad fresh-out-of-law-school young people is not worth it.

I tell you all of this because there have been a number of articles, emails, and blogs written over the last four or five years about Barack and Michelle Obama and their law licenses. Or should I say lack of law licenses. Recall that the two White House occupants met at a law firm where Michelle first worked and Barack came on board. She was his mentor according to some stories I have read. He left to teach law at a Chicago law school at some point, and she went to work in a hospital as legal counsel. She went to work in a non-legal position in a Chicago hospital. It is undisputed that neither of the Obamas has an active law license today.

Here is how George Soros' FactCheck.org explains the "Voluntary Changes" to the Obama's law licenses:
President Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 and was admitted as a lawyer by the Supreme Court of Illinois on Dec. 17, 1991. Prior to being elected to the Illinois state Senate in 1996, he worked as a civil rights lawyer at the firm formerly known as Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Galland. Four days after Obama announced that he would run for president in February 2007, he voluntarily elected to have his law license placed on “inactive” status, according to Grogan. Then, after becoming president, he elected to change his status to “retired” in February 2009.

Michelle Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, and was admitted as a lawyer by the Supreme Court of Illinois on May 12, 1989. Following graduation, she joined Sidley Austin, a corporate law firm in Chicago. But a few years later, in 1994, while working for the Public Allies project in Chicago, Obama voluntarily had her license placed on “inactive” status.
So it is time to fact check FactCheck.

Illinois maintains an online searchable database of attorney registered to practice law in the state. The two following screen shots were taken in 2009 when a concerned citizen looked up Barack and Michelle's status with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission.

Screen shot of IARDC record for Barack Hussein Obama's Illinois record accessed 5/14/09.

Screen shot of Michelle Obama's IARDC record accessed 5/14/09.

Now FactCheck.org says that POTUS went "inactive" in 2007 and "retired" in 2009. But his IARDC record says he was last registered in 2008. Similarly, FactCheck says FLOTUS went "inactive" in 1994. But her IARDC record says she was last registered in 1993. So, why is FactCheck.org getting the facts to wrong?

But here is the really interesting part. If you NOW go to the IARDC and pull up these same two records, as I did this morning, here is what you see.

If you enter just the name "Obama" it pulls up two records. So far so good.

When you go to POTUS' record, the date of his last year registered has been scrubbed.

And the same is true of FLOTUS' record -- no date of when she was last registered.

So when did the IARDC scrub these records? Are these the only these two records, or have all the "Last Registered Year" entries been scrubbed for all inactive and retired attorneys in Illinois? I do not know any attorneys in Illinois with whom to check this, so I hope someone reading this post will pass it along to an attorney in Illinois who can supply an answer and Fact Check for us.

Smells mighty fishy to me.

Saaaay. . . Is that Elizabeth Warren?

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