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June 11, 2012

Phony lawyer Howard Kieffer prevails in Tenth Circuit on federal sentencing issues

Howard O. Kieffer is a name familiar to many federal criminal lawyers for a number of different reasons.  This start of a new (and very long) Tenth Circuit opinion highlights why:

By all appearances, Defendant Howard Kieffer had a successful nationwide criminal law practice based in Santa Ana, California.  Defendant held himself out as Executive Director of Federal Defense Associates, and touted his services through websites, legal conferences, and professional contacts.  As early as 1997, Defendant appeared as co-counsel of record in United States v. Olsen, 1997 WL 67730 (9th Cir. 1997) (unpublished). Over the next few years, Defendant gained admission to a slew of federal trial and appellate courts around the country, where he appeared on behalf of numerous criminal defendants.  All the while, Defendant had a secret.  He is not and never has been an attorney.  He never went to law school, never sat for a bar exam, and never received a license to practice law.

Defendant no longer has a secret.  In 2009, a jury in the District of North Dakota convicted Defendant of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and making false statements, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.  The jury found Defendant gained admission to the District of North Dakota by submitting a materially false application to the court.  He then relied on that admission to gain admission to the District of Minnesota, District of Colorado, and Western District of Missouri.  Once admitted in those districts, Defendant proceeded to appear on behalf of federal criminal defendants unaware of his true identity.  The district court sentenced Defendant to 51 months imprisonment and ordered him to pay $152,750 in restitution to six victims of his scheme.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed.  United States v. Kieffer, 621 F.3d 825 (8th Cir. 2010).

Defendant’s web of deception continued to unravel in 2010 when a jury in the District of Colorado also convicted him of making false statements in violation of § 1001, in addition to wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and contempt of court, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401.  As to the false statements count, the jury found that to gain admission to the District of Colorado, Defendant fraudulently represented to the court clerk’s office that he was licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.  As to the wire fraud count, the jury found Defendant used a website, www.boplaw.com, to promote his unauthorized practice of law and bilk a criminal defendant’s brother out of several thousand dollars.  Lastly, as to the contempt count, the jury found Defendant jeopardized the administration of justice by lying to the clerk’s office and purporting to represent that criminal defendant before the district court.  The district court sentenced Defendant to 57 months imprisonment to run consecutively to the 51 month sentence previously imposed on him in the District of North Dakota.  The court further ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $152,019 to seven victims of his scheme unaccounted for in North Dakota, and directed him as a special condition of supervised release to obtain the probation office’s preapproval of any proposed employment or business ventures.  Defendant now appeals his most recent convictions and sentence. Our jurisdiction arises under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a)(2).  For reasons to follow, we affirm the district court’s judgment of conviction, but vacate its judgment of sentence on the wire fraud and false statements counts, and remand for resentencing.

June 11, 2012 at 02:41 PM | Permalink


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I'd be curious to know how successful he was in the cases he represented and what type they were.

Posted by: Curious minds want to know | Jun 11, 2012 8:09:59 PM

lol i was thinking the same thing all those years and ALL those diff lvl's of courts right up to the federal appellat lvl and they could only find a dozen or so unsatisfied customers?

sounds like a HELL of a lawyer!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 12, 2012 12:27:43 AM

"He never went to law school, never sat for a bar exam, and never received a license to practice law."
{so Kieffer didn't...}

"Clinton's law license will be suspended for five years and he will pay a $25,000 fine to Arkansas bar
officials. He also gave up any claim to repayment of his legal fees in the matter."

"…Clinton, who acknowledged that he violated one of the Arkansas Bar's rules of conduct. And in court
papers closing the Arkansas disbarment proceedings, he admitted to conduct "prejudicial to the
administration of justice.""

"Clinton was suspended by the Supreme Court in October 2001, and, facing disbarment from that court,
Clinton resigned from the Supreme Court bar in November."

{...but Clinton did}

Posted by: Adamakis | Jun 12, 2012 2:12:18 PM

I agree with Curious Minds. I think it would be easy to find a dozen or so dissatisfied customers among "legitimate" members of the bar. I think the Sixth Amendment requires a right to counsel, but it does not define counsel as being required to be a members of the bar or being licensed. However, it has been determined to mean the individual has a right to counsel of choice (I'd say if people paid him, they chose him) and counsel should be effective -- the rate of which Kieffer had likely was comparable to that of a member of the bar. This is great for those who lost because they can say they didn't have competent counsel. But for his clients who prevailed, does this create an opposite problem?

Posted by: Feekoningin | Jun 26, 2012 12:21:37 PM

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