Monday, August 10, 2009

License? We Don't Need No Steenkin' License...

The circumstances surrounding the resignation of Chandra Fienen as Governor Doyle’s “chief legal counsel” are about as clear as mud. But one thing is pretty clear: practicing law without a law license in Wisconsin can get you into big trouble.

Friday, Chandra Fienen voluntarily handed in her resignation, a letter consisting of two sentences, just about the same time the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a complaint with the Office Lawyer Regulation accusing her of practicing law without a license. State law says you can’t call yourself a “lawyer”, “solicitor”, or “counselor” with the intent of making folks think you’ve got a Wisconsin law license.

Particularly if you don’t HAVE a Wisconsin law license, which apparently Fienen does not.

And, the way the Republicans see it, when Fienen wrote a letter to the Republican Party in March, calling herself the guv’s “Chief Legal Counsel”, it’s reasonable to assume that she intended the Republicans to believe that was qualified to use that word “Counsel” - a word that gets you in trouble with the law if you’re not licensed.

So, how does somebody without a license to practice law in Wisconsin get appointed to the hundred-grand-a-year job of “Chief Legal Counsel” to the guv? Apparently by promising that you WILL get a Wisconsin law license. Fienen was high up in the food chain at the state Commerce Department over a year ago when Doyle tabbed her for the job.

They knew at that point she didn’t have a Wisconsin law license; so she apparently told the folks in the guv’s office she’d take the Wisconsin bar exam and get a license. It’s not like she walked in off the street and pretended to be a lawyer; she practiced law in California. But, since each state’s law has its own particular ins and outs, they all require a state law license before you can hang out a shingle.

Or become “Chief Legal Counsel” to the governor.

This is where the details get real muddy. Fienen apparently took, and passed, the Wisconsin bar exam, but for reasons which aren’t clear, she does not actually have a Wisconsin law license. I suspect the Republicans will waste little time in digging up the details on that.

Don’t worry about the guv, though. Just in case he runs short of legal advice, he can turn to the Attorney General, J. B. VanHollen. But VanHollen is a Republican. Oh-oh….a Democratic Governor and a Republican Attorney General! How could the voters have done that! Back in the 90’s, there were famous feuds between the guv and the A-G. Tommy Thompson was the guv, a Republican, and he was constantly at odds with his Democratic Attorney General, and Tommy hired lawyers to fight his own Attorney General in court several times.

Now, who was that Attorney General who did battles with the Republican Governor?

Oh yah….Jim Doyle.

You gotta love Wisconsin politics.


  1. Hail Caesar. Nice little moral vaccum in the fiefdom. Loved the link. I don't remember it in the local paper.(?)

  2. When we visited Madison over the weekend we stopped at the Capitol building. Janet took oodles of pictures, of course. Eleanor rang the replica of the Liberty bell (I must confess: so did I!). And we saw the entrances to the Gov's office and the office of the AG. I would not have been able to name him...but now here's your blog post with his name, too. Synchronicity at work.

    Also just got an email from an old high school buddy detailing the dumb things our current President has done in his first five months on the job. The gimmick, of course, is to compare the dumbness / dumbosity of President Obama with former President Bush. All very snarky. I guess it's one of the reasons I don't pay much attention to a President's putative intelligence, because one can always find stupid things to make fun of.

    I enjoyed this post, though. "Oh, yeah, I'll get around to it," she seemed to say.

    Steve Erbach
    Neenah, WI