Legal Eagle Monopoly is for the Birds

Photograph Source: Rudy Giuliani – CC BY-SA 3.0

“A Washington, D.C.-based bar discipline committee,” Politico reports, recommends that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani be disbarred for his efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election on Donald Trump’s behalf.  “By prosecuting that destructive case,”  the committee’s report states, “Mr. Giuliani, a sworn officer of the Court, forfeited his right to practice law.”

Meanwhile, another attorney associated with Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results, L. Lin Wood, surrendered his Georgia law license and went into retirement rather than face similar proceedings from that state’s bar association.

While Giuliani and Wood seem to have quite a bit to answer for, and might rightly face court-ordered sanctions for wasting judges’ time with vexatious, malicious, and frivolous litigation, the whole idea of a “license to practice law” is both evil and, historically, un-American.

There’s nothing wrong with “bar associations” as such. Practitioners of many arts, crafts, and occupations join professional organizations, which range in function from membership clubs to mutual aid societies to training and continuing education providers.

But occupational licensing, and especially government-conferred monopolies on such licensing to those professional organizations, deprive individuals of both the right to practice their chosen trades and the right to choose whichever practitioners of those trades meet their needs.

Is it unthinkable for someone who’s not a bar-association-licensed lawyer to represent someone else in court? Not at all.  In fact, New Hampshire’s circuit court rules explicitly provide for “Non-attorney Representatives.”

The US Constitution guarantees those accused of crimes the right to “the assistance of Counsel” for their defense. It says nothing to the effect that said “Counsel” must be a member of a particular club, or have sought, prior to the case, the government’s permission to “practice law.”

Based on their records, I wouldn’t likely choose Giuliani or Wood to represent me in court if my neck was on the line. But it’s my neck, and I should be free to hire the person I deem best qualified to save that neck, no matter what the bar association has to say on the matter.

Similarly, knowing my own limitations, I wouldn’t consider hanging out my shingle as a “lawyer” and offering my services to represent others before a court in matters civil or criminal. But if I was silly enough to do that, and if you were silly enough to take me up on it, the decision should be up to us, not to an association neither of us either belong or have agreed to accept the supervision of. Again, it would be your neck and my reputation — not theirs — on the line.

The theory of law as such is that we’re responsible for our actions. Why should we be robbed of our agency when it comes to defending those actions?

As you may have gathered, I am not an attorney and this column is not intended to constitute legal advice. I’m not sure I legally HAVE to say that, but given the legal profession’s stranglehold on such things, better safe than sorry, right?

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.