Hello and welcome to this Ethics Alert blog which will discuss recent conviction of a Pennsylvania woman who posed as a lawyer for 10 years using fictitious documents and another lawyer’s license number. 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 had been named a partner at a Pennsylvania law firm in April 2014 when her actions were discovered later that year. She had spent the previous decade working as a lawyer by the time the state attorney general’s office brought charges against her in 2015. She had also served as served as president of the local county bar association.
According to the criminal charges and media reports, the woman created fictitious bar examination results and a law license and a false check for the state attorney registration fee, and she also created a false e-mail purportedly showing that she attended Duquesne University law school.
The woman handled estate planning for more than 30 clients and even served as president of the county bar association for a time. She made partner at her firm before the fraud was discovered. Her biography page (which has been deleted) said that she spent a decade as a paralegal at another firm in Pittsburgh and that she graduated summa cum laude from Duquesne law school in Pittsburgh.
A former county bar association president told the Huntingdon Daily News, which first reported on the matter, that by specializing in estate planning on inheritance court documents, the woman was able to stay out of the courtroom.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the woman’s attorney said she would be considering an appeal since, in order to prove the most serious charge of records tampering, prosecutors had to show that someone “relied on the deceit to their detriment.” The lawyer contends that nobody was harmed by the deception since “apparently everyone was satisfied with (her services) for at least a decade.” The lawyer also stated that “(n)obody ever challenged her credentials.”
The judge found the lawyer guilty of misdemeanor UPL, misdemeanor forgery, and felony tampering with a public record/information on March 24, 2016 and did not immediately schedule sentencing.
Bottom line: This individual appears to have been successful in posing as an attorney for over ten years in Pennsylvania and was made a partner in a law firm and served as a local Bar president using false credentials and a false law license. Lawyer be wary and be sure to fully investigate any lawyer that you hire.
…and be careful out there.
If you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement and does not contain any legal advice, and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
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