A federal judge in Minneapolis has denied a Twin Cities' law professor's request to represent terror suspect Mohamed Warsame, because the professor hasn't taken Minnesota's bar exam.
In general, attorneys must have passed a state's bar exam to practice law in a particular state. But under court rules, judges may allow out-of-state attorneys to work on specific cases.
William Mitchell law professor Peter Erlinder is licensed to practice law in Illinois as well as other federal and appellate courts. He has sought permission and been denied three times in Minnesota -- the latest, to represent Warsame, a former Minneapolis man who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to support al-Qaeda.
U.S. District Judge Jack Tunheim denied Erlinder's request because he said the special admission is meant for attorneys who live outside Minnesota. He said there is nothing preventing Erlinder, who's been a law professor in Minnesota for more than 25 years, from taking the bar exam in the Twin Cities where it's offered twice each year.
Judge Tunheim said Erlinder could also seek a "waive in" to Minnesota Bar membership, by demonstrating that: for at least five of the last seven years he was licensed to practice law, in good standing before the highest court of all jurisdictions where he is admitted, and engaged as a law professor teaching full-time at an approved law school.
Tunheim said that if Erlinder had successfully pursued either path, and satisfied other reporting requirements for the Minnesota Bar, he would be entitled to appear in this case and any other case in this District of Minnesota.
"In short, Erlinder has convenient access to the same paths to bar admission available to his students and any other Minnesota resident," wrote Tunheim.