Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch has accused Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., of “openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court” in a complaint brought before the Rhode Island Judiciary.
The complaint pertains to a sternly worded brief he and other senators recently filed to the high court warning the justices to “heal” or face the possibility of restructuring. The Judicial Watch filing accuses Whitehouse of improperly performing legal work while the status of his license is inactive, as well as engaging in misconduct with the warning they directed at the court.
“[T]he brief Senator Whitehouse filed was unbecoming of the legal profession as it is nothing more than an attack on the federal judiciary and an open threat to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Judicial Watch’s complaint said.
The brief — which also bore the names of Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. — named Whitehouse as “Counsel of Record.” Judicial Watch attached a copy of a Rhode Island Judiciary record that lists Whitehouse’s attorney status as inactive. Fox News says it has confirmed that the current record still shows the inactive status.
As a result, the organization claimed, Whitehouse engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he filed the brief.
Judicial Watch noted that Whitehouse is not licensed to practice law anywhere else, though he did list a Washington, D.C., address on the brief. The organization claimed that if Whitehouse meant to indicate that he was acting as an attorney in D.C. and not Rhode Island, this, too, would be an unauthorized practice of law.
A representative from Whitehouse’s office claimed, “Senator Whitehouse is a member of the Supreme Court bar and filed nothing in Rhode Island,” adding, “This attack group has no credibility.”
On top of the allegations based on the status of Whitehouse’s law license, the complaint took issue with the substance of the brief, which Judicial Watch alleged:
“violated the Rhode Island Rules of Professional Conduct by attacking the federal judiciary and openly threatening the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The brief accused the Supreme Court of issuing rulings based on politics and not the law. It concluded by claiming:
“The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.’”