Legal Ethics

Despite Lack of Law License, Neb. Bartender Practiced from 1998 to 2011

David Walocha graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 1994.

He passed the Nebraska bar exam. He got his law license. Then he let it lapse in 1996, by not paying his bar dues. Nonetheless, he practiced law from 1998 to 2011, often picking up clients from his primary job as a bartender, reports the World-Herald.

Now 43, Walocha was also quick to refer cases to other lawyers, says Robb Gage, a lawyer and friend who represented Walocha during attorney disciplinary proceedings and himself benefited from a number of Walocha’s referrals.

Walocha appeared before at least 15 different judges, but none noticed anything amiss, the newspaper reports. He represented at least 60 people, mainly in Douglas County. It appears that his wife, a real estate attorney, also was unaware of the situation, according to the article.

Not until one of his clients was sentenced to a prison term of 10 to 15 years did Walocha’s lack of a law license come to light. When prison officials asked Patrick Vanderpool to provide his lawyer’s name and phone number, so they could prevent lawyer-client calls from being monitored, it didn’t match up with records of actual attorney contact information.

Officials assumed Vanderpool was just trying to put in a friend’s phone number and skewered him, the World-Herald recounts. Vanderpool called his mom. She called the Nebraska State Bar Association.

Now Walocha despite the missing law license, could indirectly win his first felony acquittal; Vanderpool is challenging his conviction, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.

Until early 2011, “our office was completely unaware of Mr. Walocha,” said Kent Frobish, a lawyer who serves as an assistant state counsel in attorney discipline cases. “I suppose we could assume he had satisfied clients. Trouble is, he shouldn’t have had any clients.”

Earlier coverage: “Nebraska Lawyer Who Practiced for 13 Years on a Suspended License Is Disbarred”

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