What Happened to Obama's Law License?

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Viral text claims President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama surrendered their Illinois law licenses to avoid criminal prosecution, or worse.

Description: Viral message
Circulating since: June 2010
Status: Mostly false (details below)

Email text contributed by Wesley S., June 4, 2012:

Subject: Lawyers?

This was forwarded by an acquaintance. Very telling...............

I knew they had both lost their law license, but I didn't know why until I read this.

This is 100% legit. I check it out at https://www.iardc.org Stands for Illinois Attorney Registration And Disciplinary Committee. It's the official arm of lawyer discipline in Illinois; and they are very strict and mean as hell. (Talk about irony.) Even I, at the advanced age of almost 65, maintain (at the cost of approximately $600/year) my law license that I worked so hard and long to earn.

Big surprise.

Former Constitutional Law Lecturer and U.S. President Makes Up Constitutional Quotes During State Of The Union (SOTU) Address.

Consider this:

1. President Barack Obama, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, is no longer a "lawyer". He surrendered his license back in 2008 in order to escape charges he lied on his bar application. A "Voluntary Surrender" is not something where you decide "Gee, a license is not really something I need anymore, is it?" and forget to renew your license. No, a "Voluntary Surrender" is something you do when you've been accused of something, and you 'voluntarily surrender" your license five seconds before the state suspends you.

2 Michelle Obama "voluntarily surrendered" her law license in 1993. after a Federal Judge gave her the choice between surrendering her license or standing trial for Insurance fraud!

3. So, we have the first black President and First Lady - who don't actually have licenses to practice law. Facts.

Source: http://jdlong.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/pres-barack-obama-editor-of-the-Harvard-law-review-has-no-law-license/

4. A senior lecturer is one thing, a fully ranked law professor is another. Barack Obama was NOT a Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Chicago.

5. The University of Chicago released a statement in March 2008 saying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) "served as a professor" in the law school-but that is a title Obama, who taught courses there part-time, never held, a spokesman for the school confirmed in 2008.

6. "He did not hold the title of Professor of Law," said Marsha Ferziger Nagorsky, an Assistant Dean for Communications and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago School of Law.

Source: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/03/sweet_obama_did_hold_the_title.html

7. The former Constitutional Senior Lecturer (Obama) cited the U.S. Constitution the other night during his State of the Union Address. Unfortunately, the quote he cited was from the Declaration of Independence ... not the Constitution.

8. The B-Cast posted the video: http://www.breitbart.tv/did-obama-confuse-the-constitution-with-the-declaration-of-independence/

9. Free Republic: In the State of the Union Address, President Obama said: "We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal.

10. Um, wrong citing, wrong founding document there Champ, I mean Mr. President. By the way, the promises are not a notion, our founders named them unalienable rights. The document is our Declaration of Independence and it reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

11. And this is the same guy who lectured the Supreme Court moments later in the same speech?

When you are a phony it's hard to keep facts straight.

Keep this moving -- educate others.

Analysis: It's true that neither Barack nor Michelle Obama currently has an active law license authorizing them to practice in the state of Illinois.

The Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission lists President Obama's registration status as "voluntarily retired."

It lists Michelle Obama's status as "voluntarily inactive."

It is not true based on any existing evidence, however, that either of them surrendered their law license to avoid disciplinary action or criminal prosecution. Nor is it true, contrary to what has been claimed on literally thousands of anti-Obama blogs and websites, that the Obamas were "disbarred" or had their law licenses "revoked" for any reason. Disbarred attorneys are listed in the ARDC database as "Not authorized to practice law due to discipline." The Obamas are not so listed.

Moreover, neither the Illinois State Bar Association nor the ARDC lists any accusations of misconduct or disciplinary actions against the Obamas.

According to a statement quoted by FactCheck.org, ARDC deputy administrator and chief counsel James Grogan says the Obamas were "never the subject of any public disciplinary proceedings."

Quite to the contrary, a notice on the website of the Illinois State Bar states that the Association is "proud" to retain Barack and Michelle Obama as honorary members.

Lastly, it's not unusual for lawyers to go on inactive status if they have no immediate plans to practice law. According to the ARDC Annual Report fully 12% of Illinois' 87,943 attorneys were registered as inactive in 2011.

"Senior Lecturer" vs. "Professor"

It's true that although both President Obama and the University of Chicago have stated at various times that he was a "professor of law" or "professor of constitutional law" at the U.C. Law School, he never officially held that title. He was first a Lecturer (1992-1996) and then a Senior Lecturer (1996-2004) until elected to the Senate in 2004.

These distinctions are elucidated in a media release published on the U.C. Law School website, which nevertheless pointedly states that Barack Obama served as a professor there regardless of his official title.

"Enshrined in our Constitution"

As to Obama's statement that equal treatment under the law is a promise "enshrined in our Constitution" (State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2010), it's true that the phrase "All men are created equal" originated in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, so one can argue that Obama cited the wrong document.

One can also argue that he cited the right document.

The key word is enshrined, which is defined as follows on Oxford Dictionaries Online:

[To] preserve (a right, tradition, or idea) in a form that ensures it will be protected and respected

Now bear that definition in mind as you read Obama's statement in context:

We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we're all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.

Sources and further reading:

The Obama's Law Licenses
FactCheck.org, 14 June 2012

2011 Annual Report of the ARCC
Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, 24 April 2012

ISBA History
Illinois State Bar Association

Statement Regarding Barack Obama
University of Chicago Law School