Criminal Justice

Convicted of UPL, former bar president with no law degree 'provided a good service,' her lawyer says

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A former county bar association president in Pennsylvania who never earned a law degree was convicted Thursday in an unauthorized practice of law case.

Kimberly Kitchen, now 46, worked as an estate planning lawyer at BMZ Law in Huntingdon County. Kitchen had made partner at the firm before her lack of credentials was discovered. Prosecutors said she forged documents showing that she had attended law school at Duquesne University, passed the bar exam, was licensed to practice law and had paid a required attorney registration fee, the Associated Press reports. In fact, investigators found, she never went to law school, let alone graduated.

The Huntingdon Daily News (sub. req.) and WJAC also have stories.

Kitchen’s lawyer, Caroline Roberto, said Friday that she is reviewing whether to appeal the verdict, the AP article reports. Roberto said she believes her client lacked intent to defraud and, despite her lack of required credentials, “she provided a good service” working as an estate lawyer.

Members of the BMZ firm testified at Kitchen’s bench trial, but have not publicly commented.

“Sadly, it would appear that our firm was the last, in a long line of professionals, to have been deceived by Ms. Kitchen into believing she was licensed to practice law,” the firm said in a December 2014 written statement, soon after Kitchen’s fraud came to light. “We are undertaking a thorough review of each and every file she may have handled.”

The case was tried by the AG’s office, before an out-of-county judge, because Kitchen had practiced law for nearly a decade in the local court system.

She will be sentenced at a later date. The most serious charge, tampering with a public document, carries a maximum prison term of between 3 and 7 years, the WJAC article reports. Kitchen also was convicted of forgery and unauthorized practice of law.

Related coverage: “AG: Former bar president charged with UPL after 10 years in practice never attended law school”

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