big chief law lady

Did Elizabeth Warren Illegally Practice Law In Massachusetts, By Which We Mean New Jersey?

teach me how to touchdown

After War Whoop Tuesday, it has been literally hours since someone made an offensively stupid allegation about Elizabeth Warren in the Massachusetts Senate race.

Never fear, though – there’s an endless supply!

Cornell law professor William Jacobson alleges that Warren practiced law illegally in Massachusetts because, while she was a professor at Harvard, she provided legal advice to a New Jersey client in a bankruptcy case in the bankruptcy court for the District of New Jersey. Warren was licensed in New Jersey; she was not in Massachusetts.

Cornell law professor William Jacobson is a clown.

Here is how this works: you may practice law in any state in which you are licensed to practice. “Practice” means that you appear in courts of law and/or represent a client’s legal interests in that state. Physically being in state A and representing a client in state B counts as the practice of law in state B. This is why a lawyer on vacation can still get contacted by their supervising partner at 3 in the morning to prepare and file something from a completely different state. That and the smartphone you’re required to have.

This is the document Warren filed in the District of New Jersey:

GAF Bankruptcy – Elizabeth Warren Fee Applications

Note the difficult to read “District of New Jersey” at the top of the very first page, which is a strong indicator that New Jersey attorney Elizabeth Warren represented someone IN NEW JERSEY. This is open for debate, though, in that oh sweet merciful Jesus, it’s not.

Another small problem: even if Warren were somehow representing a client in Massachusetts federal court, an attorney simply has to motion for admission pro hac vice in order to be admitted for that particular case. How does pro hac vice work? Let’s write a short vignette!

JUDGE: Are you admitted to practice in Massachusetts?

ATTORNEY: No, but I’d like to move for pro hac vice admission.

JUDGE: You have a local attorney to move for you?



JUDGE: Ballin’!

I have sat through many pro hac vice admissions. It is quite nearly the most efficient thing the federal government does. This means that Republicans will almost certainly try to pass laws requiring birth certificates for plaintiffs’ attorneys by this time next year.

The strangest thing about this isn’t that that Jacobson, a total hack, is trying to make a political issue out of this. The strangest thing is that Jacobson, a licensed attorney at one of the best law schools in the country, is making incredibly serious ethics charges against an attorney without understanding how federal courts work or asking a legal practice professor a basic question a 1L would know.

Through extensive internet research, I have discovered that Cornell’s mascot is a bear unofficially nicknamed “Touchdown.” Something something replacement ref joke. You make us sad, William Jacobson.

[Legal Insurrection]

What Others Are Reading

Hola wonkerados.

To improve site performance, we did a thing. It could be up to three minutes before your comment appears. DON'T KEEP RETRYING, OKAY?

Also, if you are a new commenter, your comment may never appear. This is probably because we hate you.


  1. hagajim

    I think I won't be asking this Cornell professor to represent me anytime soon – because I would like my lawyer to know something about the law.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      Hell's bells, the last tenured law prof who actually knew how to practice as more than a helicopter consultant/savior died decades ago. Why do you think I'm getting a PhD – my near decade in practice means jack shit to academics.

        1. BerkeleyBear

          No f'ing way. Bear mascots should either be real live specimens or goofy drunk versions with sweater vests, pants and gloves.

    2. rincewindeh

      Jacobson is a "Associate Clinical Professor". The key here is "clinical". While it may also refer to his mental state,here it means long-term non-tenured, i.e. we pretend to pay and you pretend to help out with the teaching.

      btw, summers here in Ithaca can be very nice, especially if they fall on a weekend.

  2. l_boogie

    What we need here is a DOLA (Defense of Lawyers Act) in which states can retroactively decline the right of out-of-state licensed lawyers to perform any services in said state. The sanctity of Scott Brown's senate seat must be protected.

  3. MacRaith

    But wait a minute, Cornell is in New York. So isn't Jacobson illegally practicing law in Massachusetts, or New Jersey, or maybe both, by making this charge against Warren?

    1. BerkeleyBear

      He's just a professor – no one actually thinks what they do is practicing law. (I wish I was kidding, but in the overwhelming number of states professors are exempt from passing the bar or doing continuing legal education as long as they don't actively practice in the state they teach in).

    2. Callyson

      No, he's illegally teaching in New York.

      (Well, it should be illegal to be this ignorant of the law if you're a law professor.)

  4. johnnyzhivago

    It says "District of New Jersey", not "State of New Jersey" so until I see the long form and get an opinion from Sheriff Arapaio , I am sure this is a fraud. I mean just look at the font and those pixels.

    1. Guppy

      Seriously. Sounds like those federal judges are a lot more laid back. I'm guessing it's the lifetime appointments.

  5. mrpuma2u

    She also took a poop on Plymouth Rock, and barfed up Sam Adams all over the steps of the North Church. But in New Jersey.

    1. sewollef

      William Jacobson ought to practice law a little more until he gets it right.

      As long as he doesn't practice it on me or any of my friends I'm jiggy with that.

  6. Schmannnity

    I would mock Professor Jacobson, but then I realized he is stuck in Ithaca for the winter semester. Maybe former Senator Brown will bundle up and go see him.

  7. Tequila Mockingbird

    Well, to be fair, Elizabeth Warren’s mother told her she had a Massachusetts law license. So it was part of her heritage.

  8. addledStevie

    The answer is that William Jacobson is a "clinical professor". Clinical professor are not actual professor. They give "practical instruction" to lawyers-in-training, teaching them stuff like how to bend the truth, attempt to apply it to the law without knowing the law, and not to get caught.

    1. Veritas78

      I think we've just discovered the difference between "one of the best law schools" and "the best law school."

      "High above Cayuga's waters,
      There's an awful smell.
      Some say it's Cayuga's waters,
      Some say it's Cornell."

    1. Lot_49

      A lot of people confuse Cornell College (an expensive liberal arts madrassa in Mount Vernon Iowa) with Cornell University (a giant land-grant state university in Ithaca New York). These people, as a rule, are not very smart.

      The weather sucks in both places, which may explain some of it.

        1. Lot_49

          She's jealous that O'Donnell's putting it to pretend girlfriend Tamron Hall, instead of her. Even said so on the teevee the other night.Granted, the choice couldn't have been difficult…

  9. pinkocommi

    What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start.

    Thank you. Thank you. I'll be here all night.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      What are 2 empty seats on that boat? 2 missed opportunities.

      Why does NJ have the most landfills and California the most lawyers? NJ picked first.

  10. ManchuCandidate

    Jeebus, Jacobean. If you're gonna get dirt then get good dirt that people (and by people I mean me) can fap too. Like if Lizzie Warren were in a lesbian sex cult or something.

    Otherwise, you're being a bureaucratic ass…. but I thought wingnuts hated bureaucracy…

    1. Ruhe

      Right now on the Diane Rheem show they're seriously debating the possibility that this recent "fact checking" trend is maybe not an entirely good thing. Jesus. Journalists can't take a step forward without pausing to gaze at their navels.

  11. SayItWithWookies

    The takeaway from this, I assume, is that we can discount the legal opinions of all law professors. Thus President Obama's experience as a law professor as well as his editorship of the Harvard Law Review, is completely discredited and null and void. See — clearly he never went to college, and thus should be impeached.

    1. sewollef

      Which reminds me.

      Is President Obama able to practice his Presidenting outside of DC, or, I presume, Illinois?

      I think we should be told.

  12. kittensdontlie

    But the overarching legal question is, if Warren is a Native American, is she even allowed to practice in the U.S.??—A. Scalia, et al from Dissenting Opinion in Warren vs. U.S. Supreme Court, 2012.

    1. sewollef

      You know they charge New Yorkers to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Staten Island, NJ, then NJ proper.

      I think it's to discourage us from dumpster diving and bringing their shit back to the Empire State. And in particular, Brooklyn.

      1. actor212

        Wait, isn't that the other way around? You have to pay to get onto Staten Island, no matter which direction you travel?

        I always figured that was a mob scam, that the bridges are actually free but the cops won't bust them because they get a cut at the precinct.

        1. sewollef

          I wonder sometimes which mobster it is that enjoyed a cement bath in the Brooklyn support tower of the bridge?

          Either way, I believe charging to enter Staten Island is certainly an effective deterrent to me, and I live on the Brooklyn side of that bridge. I mean, $13!! Seriously discouraging, even if it isn't necessary.

    1. Lot_49

      Ol' Willie o'Stratford/Avon said that before Barry and his hero, Abe Lincoln, were born.

      Then again, there's Nixon…

      And by the way, that is a complete list of the POTUSes who've been lawyers. Must mean something, but it's hard to say what.

        1. Lot_49

          Disbarred for perjury, but yes. Knew I'd forgotten one.It was a bum rap anyway. What he really said was, “I did not have sex with relatives of that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”

  13. Baconzgood

    Is it legal that someone in New York can write somthing about a person in Massachusetts practicing law for clients in New Jersey?

  14. Mumbletypeg

    Physically being in state A and representing a client in state B counts as the practice of law in state B. This is why a lawyer on vacation can still get contacted by their supervising partner at 3 in the morning

    Screw that.

    "WTF is this?? I AM ON VACATION." — Jack Stuef, Tokyo, 2011

    As many here know: some vacation plans get botched up by the craziest things..

  15. FakaktaSouth

    How does pro hac vice work? Let’s write a short vignette!

    I wish we still did actual shunnings. This guy is so ridiculously wrong that one doesn't even have to say, no, you are wrong, you fucking idiot, your whole premise is wrong, and you are stupid. There is also a backup plan, where as even if your witch-huntery had any basis in fact, we could show you how you are still wrong.

    Also, the fact that Elizabeth Warren is a kinda sorta New Jersey lawyer who doesn't even practice law, but does consumer protection stuff, just made her that much even more hotter than I already thought she was. The lady, she is a badass.

    1. prommie

      Thats fucking funny, what a coincidence, my specialty, consumer financial regulations and consumer protection (UDAP, Consumer Fraud,), damn, I has things in common with this lady.

        1. prommie

          TILA, FCRA, reg z and reg m, GLB and Privacy Safeguards red flags and alllllllllllllll the shit they was gonna shift from OCC and the Federal Reserve and the FTC to the CFPB. I coulda totally gone to work for her if she just got the fucking job. Being a fellow NJ Lawyer and all.

          1. FakaktaSouth

            Oh, how fun would Massachusetts or DC be? (DO NOT piss me off and tell me terrible things about Massachusetts or DC now, I am being sweet and supportive) and OH GOD how hot would you be if you worked for EW? Goodness gracious.

        1. prommie

          I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. ECOA class actions off the shoulder of Orion. I watched FTC injunctions glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.

  16. prommie

    And yup, like Jesse said, the place you practice is the court you are appearing in (whether by paper or personally). I am not practicing law in Aruba if I write a brief sitting on the beach there and mail it to the Trenton Bankruptcy court. What a motherfucking dumbfuck is this "professor." Man some poor saps need to sue to get their tuition back.

  17. aexp_bea

    As much as I like Warren, you are misrepresenting Jacobson's accusation. He never says she was not allowed to file a motion in federal court in New Jersey. He is saying that she didn't have the proper business permit to run a law office in Massachusetts. If he is right, then the level of her offense is similar to that of a licensed barber who cuts people's hair for extra money in their kitchen without paying the state or local business permit fees, not someone who is practicing law without the proper qualifications.

  18. Goonemeritus

    I’m counting on the good people of Ithaca to show this law professor the hippie equivalent of a curb stomping. I believe this involves shaking one’s head and referring to the offender as a drag.

  19. BerkeleyBear

    Plus this filing was in Federal fucking court. Even if it had been in the District of Massachusetts, any lawyer admitted in any state court can be admitted to practice before any Federal court (and not just pro hac vice – some actually make you join to make any appearances). You only have to join the state bar if you practice regularly in the state, which means being physically there taking on clients based there and practicing in state proceedings. Even then, most states have exemptions for in-house counsel and other situations where the practice is either only occasional or limited to a single employer entity.

    Between that and the goofy fact that teaching at a law school is not considered the practice of law by most states (or exempted from the requirement of bar membership if done on a full time basis), the upshot of it all is that almost no one on HLS' faculty is admitted in Massachusetts, just like almost no one on Cornell's is admitted in New York. Most professors passed one bar exam wherever their first job was, and never practiced once they joined the academy.

  20. Boojum

    It is too bad State Bar Associations and State Supreme Courts do not have "rules" which they "write down" so that people practicing law in a court in another State will know whether Massachusetts rules or the court's (or other State's) rules will apply. Oh wait, they do!

    Rule 8.5(b) Choice of Law. In any exercise of the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction, the rules of professional conduct to be applied shall be as follows:

    (1) for conduct in connection with a matter pending before a governmental tribunal, the rules of the jurisdiction in which the tribunal sits, unless the rules of the tribunal provide otherwise;

    Comment 4 to that Rule goes on to discuss it, to make it simpler and more easy for those unable to "read":

    [4] Paragraph (b)(1) provides that as to a lawyer's conduct relating to a proceeding pending before a government tribunal, the lawyer shall be subject only to the rules of the government tribunal, if any, or of the jurisdiction in which the government tribunal sits unless the rules of that tribunal, including its choice of law rule, provide otherwise. By limiting application of the rule to matters before a government tribunal, e.g., a court or administrative agency, parties may establish which disciplinary rules will apply in private adjudications such as arbitration.

  21. rickmaci

    Wonder if Jacobson is admitted to practice law in New York? Prior to taking up being a professor twit, he had a practice in Rhode Island. I'm just guessing here but I'd put my $10 bet down that he is not a licensed lawyer in the state of New York.

  22. proudgrampa

    I am struck by the (apparent) number of (apparent) lawyers or legal professionals who are regular contributors to Wonkette.

    While I am honored to correspond and trade ideas with such a venerable group — WTF?

    Don't you people have lawyerin' to do???

    1. prommie

      I would chew my arm off i I woke up in bed practicing law, no, wait, that doesn't work, I would, umm, I would fucking just fucking die a thousand metaphorical deaths if I ever had to hear the term "billable hours" again.

  23. Terry

    Cornell law professor William Jacobson isn't just a law professor (specializing in securities law). He also has an awesome career as a conservative pundit. He has provided commentary on legal and political issues in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Fox News, CBS Evening News, The Washington Times, The Providence Journal. Politico, and Newsday, among others. (Info taken from Wikipedia)

    It's a wonder he had time to teach at all.

  24. HogeyeGrex

    Oh, sweet Jesus. The comments over there are just fucking amazing.

    My favorite is someone saying that Warren's mention that "she hadn't used her NJ license in years" somehow has bearing on a case from 2002, a decade ago.

    1. Pres.Beeblebrox

      I am admitted in NJ and I haven't used my NJ license since 2002. I guess that means I am a stone cold Unethical lawyer and will be disbarred, permanently, from every jurisdiction in which I'm admitted, the end.

  25. Mahousu

    "Legal Insurrection"? For what's basically "whiny ill-informed complaints about people we don't like"?

    Perhaps Wonkette should rename itself "Lady Liberty's Screaming Eagle Warblog" to keep up.

  26. Supremectjester

    He can't even read. At no time does she represent anyone in this case–it is filed by a New Jersey firm, and they are paid the compensation.
    She was retained as an expert in the case, the same way a trustee can retain an accountant , appraiser, auctioneer or any other professional.
    The professor has a serious case of the stupids.

  27. fuflans

    WTF? why the assault on elizabeth warren? i would think the repubs would have more urgent senate races than this one.

    like, oh, MO.

    course then again, scott brown was their poster boy for the great teabagging revolt of 2010. guess it would be a huge symbolic loss.

  28. banana_bread

    Yeah, well, we had a lawyer once, who was perfectly competent, and I later found out she was sanctioned for forging documents and being crazy and shit!

    I don't know what that has to do with this. Carry on.

  29. An_Outhouse

    Cornell law professor William Jacobson has a huge hard on for Elizabeth Warren.

    (That's just an expression. Cornell law professor William Jacobson has a tiny penis and suffers erectile dysfunction).

  30. decentcitizen

    Decentcitizen once practiced law and realized upon commencing said practice that law professors as a rule did not understand the practice of law.

  31. lulzmonger

    Can't comment on this until I have fully examined the kerning on that document for Marxist or Islamofascist serifs … a project I expect will be complete as early as 2017.

  32. ttommyunger

    William Jacobson doesn't usually give legal advice, but when he does, he gets it completely bass-akwards. He is…….the most uninteresting legal hack in the World.

Comments are closed.