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Felon Teaches CLE on Criminal Sentencing

Granted, first-hand experience is an important quality in a continuing legal education instructor, but it's possible to go too far. That was the case at a recent Milwaukee CLE program where 50 lawyers were treated to a program on criminal sentencing that, unbeknownst to them, was taught by a convicted felon, according to Daniel Bice's column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Instructor Howard O. Kieffer's criminal background -- not to mention his lack of a law degree -- came as a surprise to the Federal Defender Services of Milwaukee, which arranged the CLE program back in November 2007 believing Kieffer to be a legitimate expert on sentencing law.

And why not? Kieffer's bio portrayed him as a sentencing expert who ran Legal Defense Associates, a one-man Santa Ana, Calif.-based law firm, a 1992 graduate of Antioch Law School and an adviser to several members of Congress. It turns out that during the time frame that Kieffer claimed he attended law school, he was actually doing time for grand theft and filing false tax returns. Of course, Kieffer did get some legal training in prison (indeed, perhaps more than some students receive in law school) by handling his appeal and a subsequent civil suit against the United States government.

Kieffer's past finally came to light when a disgruntled client investigated Kieffer and learned that he wasn't licensed to practice. Earlier this month, Kieffer was convicted on federal charges of mail fraud and impersonating a lawyer. He faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

As for the lawyers who attended the CLE, not to worry. Wisconsin will still count the credits, concluding that the course offered some "useful information."

Update - looks like Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice caught this story and blogged about it  two weeks ago.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 27, 2009 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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