Fact check: The Obamas did not surrender their law licenses because of malpractice

Shared widely on Facebook, posts claim that former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama both lost their licenses to practice law for disciplinary reasons. This claim is false.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Example posts can be seen here and here .

Misinformation about the Obamas having to surrender their law licenses has been shared on Facebook for several years. Posts allege that Barack Obama “surrendered his license back in 2008 in order to escape charges he lied on his bar application” while 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.” Both claims are false.

The “Lawyer Search” function on the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) website provides information on the current status of the Obamas’ authority to practice law ( here ).

A search for Barack Obama shows he was admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association on December 17, 1991, but that he is no longer authorized to practice law. His entry shows under “Illinois Registration Status” that the former president is “Retired - not authorized to practice law or provide pro bono services” and that his last registered year was 2008, the year he was elected president. Under “Public Record of Discipline and Pending Proceedings” it says “None.”

The entry for Michelle Obama provides her maiden name, Michelle Lavaughn Robinson, and the date she was admitted to the bar, May 12, 1989. Her Illinois registration status is “Voluntarily inactive and not authorized to practice law” and she was last registered in 1993.As is the case with her husband, under Michelle’s Public Record of Discipline and Pending Proceedings it says “None.”

A spokesperson for the Illinois ARDC told Reuters via email: “Neither Barack nor Michelle Obama has ever been the subject of attorney disciplinary proceedings in Illinois. The ‘Lawyer Search’ portion of the ARDC’s website ( ) correctly notes that the Obamas are not currently authorized to practice law in Illinois, but that is because Barack Obama elected to assume retired status and Michelle Obama elected to assume inactive status. Both could return to active status and practice law if they desired.”


False. The Obamas did not have to surrender their licenses to practice law, and neither has been the subject of attorney disciplinary proceedings in Illinois.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here  .