Howard Kieffer never attended law school and never had a law license. Nonetheless, he was admitted to practice in several federal courts, including in Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, and North Dakota. Kieffer represented dozens of criminal defendants during a 15-year period as the founder of Federal Defense Associates. When he started the firm in 1993 in Orange County, he had just been released from federal prison for grand theft. He was a member of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and attended its meetings, as well as ABA meetings. He claimed that he was a graduate of Antioch Law School, which closed in 1988.
In 2008, after colleagues, former clients, and court personnel began to suspect he was not licensed, an investigation resulted in a federal grand jury indictment. Subsequently, federal courts began more closely scrutinizing applications for admission to practice before them. In 2008, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts issued a memo urging federal court clerks to require verification that applicants were, in fact, licensed to practice. Recently, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Mr. Kieffer.