I don’t like to talk about the “Birthers.” They don’t deserve serious treatment, except the occasional concise or snarky explanation of why they’re wrong, both of which are done better elsewhere, at a friend’s site. Besides, debating them extensively just makes me feel like I’m lowering myself to their level. So please forgive this momentary diversion, a last glance at one particularly reprehensible villain.
“Dr.” Orly Taitz, a woman holding herself out as a lawyer, has managed to leverage the far-right’s distaste for President Obama into a number of conspiracy theories, a few scurrilous lawsuits, and fifteen minutes of fame, billing herself as the defender of obscure constitutional phraseology and – apparently – the republic itself. But “Dr.” Taitz may be the only “ineligible” player in her little farce.
Although Taitz is a member of the California Bar, she’s not listed as a member of the American Bar Association (check for yourself). Nor is her “law school” (William Howard Taft University) accredited by the ABA. Because Taft is a distance-learning school only, Taitz’s degree entitles her, at most, to practice in California, as her school candidly admits.
Rules of attorney discipline forbid the practice of law without a license – i.e., without sitting for and passing the bar exam, after graduating from an ABA-accredited school. Her correspondence degree is a limited exception, only useful in California. So, any action in which she appeared as counsel of record outside the state would constitute practicing law without a license, in violation of California disciplinary rules. Has “Dr.” Taitz violated this rule? Does her appearance before the Supreme Court, in filing documents for the frivolous, since-dismissed case Lightfoot v. Bowen, therefore subject her to discipline?
Maybe. Under the rules of the Supreme Court, an attorney must be admitted to the Supreme Court Bar to make an appearance before the court (i.e., make arguments, or file a motion).* Her limited admission in California appears to entitle her to admission to the Supreme Court Bar, provided she checked all the boxes and paid her $200 fee,* or sought temporary (pro hac vice) admission.* The question is whether “Dr.” Taitz managed to get herself admitted – which Taitz has never suggested. (UPDATE: She did, and she posted it. However, using the burden of proof Taitz expects of Obama, I still don’t believe it.)
Even if Taitz legitimately filed her grade-school level motions before the Supreme Court, she may have violated a series of other disciplinary rules in the course of her conduct. The California Rules of Professional Conduct provide,
A member shall not seek, accept, or continue employment if the member knows or should know that the objective of such employment is:
(A) To bring an action, conduct a defense, assert a position in litigation, or take an appeal, without probable cause and for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring any person; or
(B) To present a claim or defense in litigation that is not warranted under existing law, unless it can be supported by a good faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of such existing law.*
The exception for “good faith argument[s] for an extension, modification, or reversal of such existing law” is large as a matter of policy, and allows attorneys to creatively address real problems in the current state of the law . But at least one judge thinks that the Obama citizenship cases are more than creative – in his words, they’re the “frivolous” actions of “agents provacateurs,” constituting harassment, and potentially subjecting at least one Berg-led attorney to discipline. There’s no reason Taitz shouldn’t be similarly disciplined upon her next filing, under California’s mirror rule.
Further, Taitz’s “consent form,” posted on her site to solicit & induce ill-advised members of our military into suing the President, may constitute an unethical attorney solicitation. Under the California rules, attorney “communications” may not contain dramatization, or “confuse, deceive, or mislead the public.”* Tricking enlisted men & women into frivolously suing the commander in chief at least flirts with that line. Smart lawyers don’t cut the disciplinary rules this close.
Now, I’m not a lawyer. Yet. So the above is amateur opinion, not professional theory. I know my limits. Taitz doesn’t. That’s just one of a few things that separates us.
- Sup. Ct. Rule 9.1.
- Sup. Ct. Rule 6.
- Sup. Ct. Rule 5.1.
- California RPC 3-200.
- California RPC 1-400.