Yesterday Legal Insurrection posted a copy of a letter sent to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding recent statements by Michael Fredrickson, the General Counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. Within a few hours after William Jacobson reported on his website, Legal Insurrection, that Elizabeth Warren was practicing law without a license, Mr. Fredrickson gave an interview defending Elizabeth Warren.
The article reports:
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….
This is the press release from the Republican Party, including the letter to Chief Justice Ireland:
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
This is an issue that needs to be investigated.