Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will update my March 30, 2016 blog and discuss recent sentence of a Pennsylvania woman who impersonated a lawyer for 10 years. The case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Kimberly M. Kitchen, case number CP-31-CR-0000274-2015 (Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County). The court docket is here: https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CPReport.ashx?docketNumber=CP-31-CR-0000274-2015
According to media reports, the woman was a partner at a Pennsylvania law firm when her actions were discovered later that year. In the winter of 2014, attorney Gregory Jackson was creating a seniority list for the Huntingdon County Bar Association (for whom the lawyer had previously served as President) but could not find any information on her indicating that she was a lawyer. He then reported her.
She had spent the previous 10 years impersonating a lawyer when the state attorney general’s office brought criminal charges against her in 2015. According to the criminal charges and media reports, the individual created fictitious bar examination results and a law license and also a false check for the state attorney registration fee. She also created a false e-mail purportedly showing that she attended Duquesne University law school.
The individual had handled estate planning for clients and was made a partner at her firm. Her law firm biography page (which has been deleted) claimed that she spent a decade as a paralegal at another firm in Pittsburgh and that she graduated summa cum laude from Duquesne law school.
On March 24, 2016, the individual was found guilty of misdemeanor UPL, misdemeanor forgery, and felony tampering with a public record/information. On July 19, 2016, the judge sentenced her to two to five years in prison. According to online media reports, the prison sentence was “on the higher end of the sentencing guidelines”. The judge stated that there were several reasons for the sentence, including: “not only did she pretend to be a lawyer but she pretended to be the best and biggest around.”
Two of the media reports are here: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/one_time_law_firm_partner_without_law_degree_is_sentenced_for_unlicensed_pr and here: http://wjactv.com/news/local/huntingdon-county-woman-exposed-as-a-fraudulent-lawyer-sentenced-to-prison
Bottom line: This individual appears to have been successful in boldly impersonating an attorney and pretending “to be the best and biggest around” for over ten years. She was made a partner and served as a county Bar president using the false credentials and a nonexistent license to practice. She was ultimately discovered and will now serve 2 to 5 years in prison. The takeaway: lawyers must be very wary and be sure to fully investigate any lawyer that are being considered for employment. It is easy to do this in Florida, just go here: Florida Bar find a lawyer.
Be careful out there.
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