Criminal Justice

Fake Lawyer Convicted, Faces Up to 25 Years in Prison

A man who duped clients and colleagues into believing he was a lawyer has been convicted of mail fraud and making false statements about his ability to practice law.

A federal jury in Bismarck, N.D., convicted Howard O. Kieffer after deliberating just an hour and a half, the Associated Press reports. Two witnesses testified they each paid Kieffer at least $20,000 to represent loved ones in appeals, the story says. And two lawyers testified they vouched for Kieffer on applications to practice law in the federal courts because he appeared to be an expert on sentencing matters.

In just the past four years, Kieffer represented at least 18 federal defendants, filing motions in 12 states, according to an ABA Journal story published in April. In 2007 and 2008 alone, he earned at least $92,000 in legal fees, according to court records.

Kieffer could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison and could be fined $500,000, the AP story says.

U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said the case has forced federal courts to review their procedures for admitting lawyers to practice, according to a separate Associated Press story.

Few federal courts verify information provided by out-of-state counsel in pro hac vice motions or circuit bar applications, according to an ABA Journal Web extra. The procedures vary by court.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.