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Fake Lawyer Has Fool for Client and Then Some

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 09, 2018 11:12 AM

Howard O. Kieffer should have a rule named after him, the kind of rule that says "don't go there."

He started by breaking the rule against unauthorized law practice. Then he violated the "fool-for-a-client" rule by representing himself in his criminal case.

But he broke the mold when he appealed his conviction, only to expose a sentencing error and double his prison term. Kieffer might want the legal equivalent of a Mulligan rule, but there are no do-overs in this story.

Kieffer Rules

There's just so much wrong in the Kieffer case it's hard to sum it up in one rule. Even the courts can't do it.

"This case has gone on far too long," said Circuit Judge Gregory Phillips. "Today, we attempt to end it."

That was eight months ago, and it's still clogging the system. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals just spat it out again, vacating a "sixth amended judgment" and remanding the recividist for further ruling.

Kieffer was originally sentenced in the case in 2009. Before that, he had done time for forgery, grand theft, and a host of other crimes dating back to 1976.

Criminal Practice

In the latest case, Kieffer was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay $152,750 in restitution after he forged documents to become a lawyer. That was his crime in North Dakota.

Meanwhile in Colorado, he was convicted of wire fraud in connection with a murder-for-hire case. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution.

He appealed -- in pro per -- all over the place. He pointed out an error in the restitution orders, and the appeals court agreed.

But the Tenth Circuit also pointed out an error with the jail term that otherwise would have fallen by the wayside had he not appealed. That would be a Kieffer error.

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