When Did You Stop Beating Your Law License?

Question:  If you were storing a car in your garage for the winter, would you carry insurance on it?

If you’d discovered you didn’t read the Strib anymore, would you continue to pay for the subscription?

If you got an hour’s exercise a day by biking or running or swimming, would you pay for a gym membership?

No, no and probably not, I’m guessing.

Careful.  Award-winning journalist ® Karl Bremer might accuse you of driving without insurance, illiteracy and being out of shape…

…well, no.  That’s not quite right.  He’d write a piece on his blog Ripple in Stillwater with a headline like “Is Joe Schmo Driving Without Insurance?”, or “Is Mary Moe Illiterate?” or “Is Evonne Yeo Obese And Out Of Shape?”, listing the factoids and not a whole lot more.

One of the great plagues of the “alternative media” – and by that, I mean mostly the left-wing alternative media – is the “I’ll ask an inflammatory question – one with either no facts to back it up, or facts presented with no context that would help the uninformed that are my target audience decide whether it’s a valid quesiton – and let it dangle out there”.

It’s sort of like this classic South Park spoof of Glenn Beck…:

Which brings us to this piece from Bremer’s Ripple, in which he writes:

Throughout her political career, Michele Bachmann has rarely passed up an opportunity to burnish her lawyerly credentials by claiming that she’s a “tax litigation attorney.” And for almost as long, Bachmann hasn’t even been authorized to practice law in her home state of Minnesota.

Now, it appears that Bachmann’s license to practice law in Minnesota should not only be unauthorized, but suspended and placed on “not in good standing” status for failure to comply with the “Rules of the Supreme Court on Lawyer Registration.”…

This is only the latest in a long history of sloppy record-keeping, tardy legal filings and questionable campaign reports that litter Bachmann’s political career. Will anyone care enough to enforce the law this time?

You bet!

But since the allegations are coming from the award-winning journalist ® Karl Bremer, perhaps it’s not my place to check it out.  I’m no award winning journalist ® after all – I’m a mere uppity peasant.

So I wrote a couple of lawyer friends of mine; Joe Doakes of Como Park, and Joe “Learned Foot” Tucci (*).  And, for good measure, called the Minnesota Judicial Branch, which maintains the lists of lawyers that practice in Minnesota and, by the way, which Bremer cited.

And the answer I got?  To borrow a quote from Joe Pesci in the greatest movie ever made about the law in America, My Cousin Vinny, “Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t”.

Let’s break down Bremer’s charges, one by one:

“Suspended” Disbelief: Let’s go back to that last paragraph:

Now, it appears that Bachmann’s license to practice law in Minnesota should not only be unauthorized, but suspended and placed on “not in good standing” status for failure to comply with the “Rules of the Supreme Court on Lawyer Registration.”

Bremer writes this because Bachmann’s record with the Minnesota Judicial Branch reads “Not Authorized”.  Here, take a look.  It says she’s “Not Authorized Resident, Not Practicing in MN / Voluntarily Restricted (By Choice).

What does this mean?  I mean, to me – a mere uppity peasant – it appears that she may have taken her license out of “active” status to pursue another career for bit.   But what do I know?

Doakes – not an award-winning ® journalist, but a lawyer – explains:

Mr. Bremer doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He reminds me of the guy who has read the “to coin money” phrase in the Constitution, interprets it to mean the only valid money is gold coinage, and therefore refuses to pay his mortgage. In similarly erroneous fashion, reading the plain English words in the Rules governing lawyer licenses doesn’t mean he understands how the Rules are applied in real life.

 First, Ms. Bachman’s license to practice law has NOT lapsed – she has voluntarily self-limited her license precisely as provided by the Rules. She could un-self-limit her license at any time as provided in the Rules (notify the Court, pay a fee, catch up on classes).

Sort of like letting the insurance lapse on a car you keep stored; it doesn’t preclude reinstating the insurance and going back on the road.

Unless you’re a conservative and you wander into Karl Bremer’s attention span.

Second, the Rules provide several different categories of lawyers – some actively practicing law and some not – for the excellent reason that some people may want to take a break from representing clients day-to-day in order to do something else (missionary work, for example, or perhaps public service) [Or serve in Congress – Ed.] but also want to be able to resume practicing law later, without having to retake the Bar Exam. This regulatory scheme is designed to let lawyers “park” their licenses for a time. It’s perfectly legal and commonly used.

Another friend of mine, also an attorney, raised some eyebrows when she let her Minnesota license go inactive.  It seemed odd – except her firm was giving her nothing but cases in Iowa and the Dakotas.  It only made sense to keep her active licenses there, but keep her MN license inactive until she really needed it.  Does it mean she’s “not following the rules”, as Bremer would claim?

Rep. Bachmann, with her LL.D in Tax Law from William and Mary, practices a fairly abstruse flavor of law.  Since she’s not currentlytrying cases, the license renewal is, at this moment in her life, an unneeded extra complication and expense – especially since it’s a relatively simple matter to get it back should she need it again.

My pseudonymous lawyers aren’t good enough for you?  Fair enough; I called the Minnesota Judicial Branch, and the Board of Continuing Legal Education.  They confirmed it. “Lots of attorneys go inactive when they are out of state, not practicing, or not in a position to do their Continuing Legal Education” due to, say, being in Congress, said a MJB employee who asked not to be named.

Paid Up: Bremer wrote:

Lawyers licensed to practice law in Minnesota are required to register annually with the Lawyer Registration Office in the Minnesota Judicial Branch. They’re also required to pay an annual registration fee that varies depending on the lawyer’s active/inactive status, income level, residence and years in the profession.

And – mirabile dictu  – she paid her fee!  Check out her MJB record; third line down?  “Last Payment:  7/11/11”.

Joe Tucci – a lawyer and member of the Minnesota Bar – notes:

I would add that the dues you are required to pay when you are on voluntary restricted status are about $100 less than on active status. If you have no prospect of representing clients in your jurisdiction because you are working in a different career out of state (which also hinders your ability to keep up on your CLEs), it just makes sense to to go on voluntary restricted status.

Hm.

States Of Existence:  Remember when Bremer insisted that there is something in Bachmann’s status that is deeply prejudicial?

Now, it appears that Bachmann’s license to practice law in Minnesota should not only be unauthorized, but suspended and placed on “not in good standing” status for failure to comply with the “Rules of the Supreme Court on Lawyer Registration.”

He even quoted the letter of the law…:

“A lawyer or judge who fails to meet all of the criteria to be on either active or inactive status is placed on non-compliant status, and the right to practice law in this state is automatically suspended,” the Supreme Court Rules state. “A lawyer or judge on non-compliant status is not in good standing. A lawyer or judge on non-compliant status must not practice law in this state, must not hold out himself or herself as authorized to practice law, or in any manner represent that he or she is qualified or authorized to practice law while on non-compliant status. Any lawyer or judge who violates this rule is subject to all the penalties and remedies provided by law for the unauthorized practice of law in the State of Minnesota.”

Wait a minute – where on the record does it say that Bachmann is in any sort of “non-compliant status?”  Check for yourself!

If you can’t find anything but the phrase “Not Authorized to Practice”, join the club.  Doakes notes that there is nothign to Bremer’s claim but, well, Bremer being Bremer:

Third, the phrase “Not Authorized to Practice” is not as ominous as it sounds. It has no negative connotation. The Rule is binary – you’re either Authorized or you’re Not Authorized.

And Doakes offers something Bremer didn’t – context:

For comparison purposes, here’s Michelle Bachman’s information.

And here’s the information for [another prominent local attorney].

And here’s the information about former Court of Appeals Judge Rollie Amundson, who was convicted of stealing from his clients and sent to prison.

You’ll notice all their licenses both are listed as Not Authorized but for different reasons: Ms. Bachmann’s because she’s chosen to stop representing clients while she serves in government, Mr. Shadduck’s because he’s dead, and Mr. Amundson’s because he hasn’t paid his annual fees. “Not Authorized” doesn’t mean “bad lawyer;” it simply means “not authorized.”

Because award-winning journalists ® don’tneed to give complete, accurate context, I guess:

Where? Finally, Bremer attacked Bachmann’s attention to paperwork in re reporting her address:

The Supreme Court Rules also require that “Every lawyer or judge must immediately notify the Lawyer Registration Office of any change of postal address. Every lawyer or judge who elects to use the online registration system must immediately update their online registration profile to reflect any change of their postal address and email address.”

That rule is clearly referenced on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website on Updating Lawyer Registration.

Bachmann paid her most recent annual registration fee on July 11, 2011. Her address listed on her registration is 1801 Johnson Drive, Stillwater, MN. But Bachmann hasn’t lived at that address for nearly four years.

That would appear to put Bachmann in noncompliance with the Supreme Court Rules—not just this year, but for at least the past three years.

“A lawyer or judge who fails to meet all of the criteria to be on either active or inactive status is placed on non-compliant status, and the right to practice law in this state is automatically suspended,” the Supreme Court Rules state. “A lawyer or judge on non-compliant status is not in good standing. A lawyer or judge on non-compliant status must not practice law in this state, must not hold out himself or herself as authorized to practice law, or in any manner represent that he or she is qualified or authorized to practice law while on non-compliant status. Any lawyer or judge who violates this rule is subject to all the penalties and remedies provided by law for the unauthorized practice of law in the State of Minnesota.”

 

Doakes, however, notes that Bremer is just making stuff up now:

Fourth, I know the plain English words in the Rule say you must update even an Inactive registration but nobody updates an Inactive registration while it’s still Inactive; you update your registration when it goes Active again, when you want to resume practice. Take another look at Mr. Shadduck and Mr. Amundson’s addresses – they use their last address from the time they last were in Active practice. That’s the common and widely accepted practice and Ms. Bachmann is following it.

And if that were not the case? Well, Bremer’s gonna be one busy little award-winning ® wannabe muckracker:

Finally, to address the major point of Mr. Bremer’s column, the phrase “postal address” in the Rule does not require you to list your HOME mailing address, the place where you eat and sleep, but only to list SOME mailing address at which the Court can send notices to you. In this age of wackos with instant Internet access to public records [heh heh – Ed.], NOBODY gives the home address where they actually spend their days and nights, on their registration.

[Ramsey County Judge] Robert Awsumb doesn’t list his home address.

Nor does the leading personal injury lawyer in the state and founder of Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben.

Nor even ordinary government bureaucrats, such as the Attorney General, Lori Swanson.

And see United States Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Minnesota lawyer now serving in Congress.

Swanson and Klobuchar? Scofflaws?

Er, Karl Bremer?  You’ve got some wrongdoing to expose!  Our Attorney General and Senior Senator should both be chastised, shunned, and disbarred, by the logic in your own story!

You get right on that!

Doakes concludes:

Not Authorized to Practice – Voluntarily Restricted – and showing an address where she doesn’t actually eat and sleep on a daily basis (Senator Klobuchar lives somewhere closer to her job in Washington, DC, obviously, and simply maintains this condo in Minnesota for residency purposes). Nothing wrong with that – perfectly common practice for lawyers in government service. Such as Ms. Bachmann.

Mr. Bremer may have read the Rules governing lawyer registration, but he doesn’t understand them. Oh, and he still has to pay his mortgage, too.

The moral of the story?  If it’s the Twin Cities award-winning ® leftymedia, and they’re writing about conservatives?  Distrust, then verify.

Then, almost inevitably, distrust some more.

(And the very nice lady from the Minnesota Judicial Branch?  She confirmed everything Doakes and Tucci said).

UPDATE:  Another rep from the Continuing Legal Education office called back.  “Someone who voluntarily suspends their license but keeps their fees paid up is in good standing”.

As opposed to, y’know, bad standing.

[*] Can’t find a Joe Doakes in the database of Minnesota lawyers?  That’s right – it’s a pseudonym.  “Joe” has seen what a pack of shrieking ninnies some Twin Cities leftybloggers can be, and opts not to expose his family and his job to their foamy depredations.  Can’t say as I blame him.

21 thoughts on “When Did You Stop Beating Your Law License?

  1. Mr. Bremer may have read the Rules governing lawyer registration, but he doesn’t understand them.

    Reminds me of the exchange between the Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis characters from “A Fish Called Wanda”:

    Otto: Apes don’t read philosophy.
    Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself.” And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

    Just don’t call Karl stupid.

  2. Wonder if Bremer will ever find (and read) this post.

    There’s a word for people who do this: TWIT

  3. Why do I suspect that Bremer, expert in all things to do with the law career of Bachmann, could not tell you Bachmann’s position regarding the US missions in Afghanistan and Iraq?

  4. Huh, I passed the CPA exam but my career took me elsewhere, so I have not maintained the requirments to be an active CPA. Am I guilty of some scandel? And Karl, getting a law degree, an accounting degree, or a tax degree is extremely difficult. What was your major in college?

  5. Like Chuck, I passed the CPA exam, and worked as a CPA when first out of college. When I left public accounting and moved into private industry accounting, I no longer needed the imprimatur of the State to earn a living. I still maintain an inactive license in the state where I earned my CPA. I have to pay an annual fee, I don’t have to do qualified continuing education, I don’t have to submit to peer review, because I am not practicing public accounting.

    Should my circumstances change, grab the CPE, pay the fee, and I am legal to practice, in the home state.

  6. Nice work, Mitch. You could also punctuate the piece with Mary McCarthy’s body slam of Lillian Hellman: “Everything she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ “

  7. On the light side, Mitch, if I were storing my car in YOUR garage for the winter, I’d certainly carry insurance on it. :^)

    Sorry, just couldn’t resist.

    But seriously, I think it’s time for Bremer to investigate the lapsed law licenses of Barack and Michelle Obama. Let’s see if he brings the same fire in the belly…..

  8. The bigger picture….this bizarro obession with Congresswoman Bachmann. Looking at her foster kids, her degrees and licenses, her family’s farms. Her husband’s business. Jumping on every off-the-cuff thing she says and attacking her for it. Even jumping all over her for getting a home mortgage.

    Has the entire Democrat party turned into douchebags?

  9. Chuck, what do you mean “turned”? I think it was a requirement for membership in the lodge.

  10. But seriously, I think it’s time for Bremer to investigate the lapsed law licenses of Barack and Michelle Obama

    Hell, I’d settle for A-Klo and Lori Swanson. Same exact issue!

  11. I particularly got a kick out of the reasoned commenter over there who asked why he would read something written by a check bouncer who lives in a “garbage” house. Mitch, I had no idea you were such a scallywag. Seriously, those folks are beyond unhinged. They’re just plain crazy.

  12. Good lord, those people are cowards. Every one of them. God didn’t give the whole lot of ’em enough balls to fit out a housefly’s pool table.

  13. I dunno, Mitch, that Fact-Check seemed a bit vigorous. Are Conservatives allowed to tell the truth so forcefully? Shouldn’t you be more apologetic, obsequious and perhaps just a bit cowering? That’s how Republicans acted back in The Good Old Days. Not that anything you wrote was wrong; but just because you’re absolutely correct in every detail, must you be so . . . Right? Can’t we all just get along?

  14. Tucci, Doakes and the nicce person at the office of Lawyer registration are all check bouncers who live in garbage houses?

    And why should we listen to some unhinged loser in Stillwater who has chosen a questionable mission to devote his sad little life?

  15. Mitch;

    I totally agree with you on My Cousin Vinny.

    Chuck;

    I’m sure that he majored in roach clips or something similar.

  16. “Journalists” like Bremer never seem to have any interest at all in investigating VP Biden’s serial plagiarism, his 5 (!) draft deferments during the Vietnam War, or his long history of representing bankers, health insurance corporations, and “Big Pharm” as senior senator from Delaware.
    Examining Bachmann’s husband’s travel receipts is obviously more in the public interest.

  17. Pingback: The 2011 Shootie Awards! | Shot in the Dark

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