Lost Law Licenses: Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Nixon

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In my article on the letter I received from a lawyer who insisted – inaccurately – that Michelle Obama let her license to practice law go inactive when her husband surrendered his license in early 2008, I responded: “Did Romney surrender his license? No. Did either of the Clintons surrender theirs? No. Did Nixon surrender his? No.”

I was responding to the argument that it was to be expected that a candidate for the nomination of President would surrender his right to practice law. On the contrary, it had never happened before in American history.

Then I listed people who had not surrendered their licenses: Romney, both Clintons, and Nixon. I thought this point was obvious: I was talking about the nomination. Romney is not President. Neither is Mrs. Clinton.

Nixon surrendered two licenses after he left the White House: California and the Supreme Court. He tried to surrender his third license in New York State. The state Bar’s disciplinary agency disbarred him in July of 1976. It asked him to sign a statement that he was innocent of obstruction of justice. Not wanting to perjure himself, he refused.

Clinton’s situation was similar. The Wikipedia entry on the legal case of Clinton v. Jones explains.

On April 12, 1999, Wright found Clinton in contempt of court for “intentionally false” testimony in Jones v. Clinton, fined him $90,000, and referred the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct, as Clinton still possessed a law license in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Supreme Court suspended Clinton’s Arkansas law license in April 2000. On January 19, 2001, Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension and a $25,000 fine in order to avoid disbarment and to end the investigation of Independent Counsel Robert Ray (Starr’s successor). On October 1, 2001, Clinton’s U.S. Supreme Court law license was suspended, with 40 days to contest his disbarment. On November 9, 2001, the last day for Clinton to contest the disbarment, he opted to resign from the Supreme Court Bar, surrendering his license, rather than facing penalties related to disbarment.

So, Nixon escaped disbarment in two instances, but not the third, by surrendering his license. Clinton resigned his Supreme Court license in order to avoid disbarment. He was suspended in Arkansas, but not disbarred.

My points in all this are simple with respect to the Obamas’ licenses to practice law: (1) Michelle Obama went inactive in 1994, despite a Harvard Law School degree, which is very strange, unless she was doing so to avoid a hearing on something; (2) her husband “retired” in January 2008. I am not saying that they were ever formally charged with misconduct. I am saying that the most plausible reason for their having abandoned their licenses was to avoid disciplinary action and the threat of public disbarment. That was what Nixon and Clinton fully understood. My critics do not, or, being lawyers, pretend not to.

Obama’s supporters – several of them lawyers – have sent me emails crying “foul.” I don’t much care. This is not a court of law. This is a court of public opinion.

The Snopes entry does not deal with the problem, namely, providing a plausible explanation for two people walking away from the lifetime income and prestige to be gained by certification by Harvard Law School. Michelle Obama was 29 when she quit (went inactive). The Bar granted her this request when she turned 30.

Let me remind readers of the main point I was making in my original article, namely, that President Obama is not a Marxist, because he does not believe in proletarian revolution. Barack Obama is a Left-wing social climber with a wife who loves to shop. Second, he is under control by his handlers, because they know why he and his wife are no longer allowed to practice law. It was voluntary on their part in the same was that it was voluntary on Nixon’s part and Clinton’s part. If you want to avoid being disbarred, you can retire or else go inactive.

If you want to avoid a hearing on whatever issue a critic has raised with the Bar, the matter will not be raised publicly if you go inactive or retire. It is all informal. You are allowed to depart gracefully. No hard feelings. There is still hope. And there surely has been change.

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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