Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fulmer, Fake Lawyer

Reporter Jim Hannah at the Cincinnati Enquirer has this weird story about the Boone County local man who appears to have been masquerading, no actually fraudulently functioning as a practicing attorney handling Probate and family law matters for a long time, undetected.  Hannah's story follows:

"A man who has been practicing law at the Boone County courthouse for several years isn't a licensed lawyer in Kentucky.  Kelly F. Fulmer (pic, left)  of Walton, who also has been the chairman of the Walton-Verona school board, represented people in 13 probate cases and seven civil cases - mostly people in divorce cases - since 2006 using a fake bar license number. He even listed that number in the 2010 Northern Kentucky Bar Association legal directory.

A call to the Kentucky Bar Association or a check on its website during the last four years would have confirmed the number is fake and no 'Kelly F. Fulmer'  is licensed to practice in the Bluegrass.  Boone and Gallatin counties Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith said Wednesday that she had learned there was no record of Fulmer being licensed and that the Boone County Sheriff's Department had launched an investigation.

It is a misdemeanor for someone to practice law in Kentucky without a license, but Fulmer could face felony theft by deception charges if he accepted money for his legal services.  It is unclear whether Fulmer had been acting as an attorney in other Kentucky counties, but the Kentucky Secretary of State's office has him identified as a lawyer in corporate records for several limited liability corporations.

Fulmer didn't respond to messages left at his home, office and on his e-mail seeking comment, but he resigned Wednesday as chairman of the Walton-Verona school board. He was first elected to the board in 2000.  Fellow board member Bill Wethington said Fulmer didn't give specifics about why he was resigning but told fellow members they would be reading about it in the newspaper. Wethington will be the acting board chairman.

Biographical information on the school district's website stated as of Wednesday morning that Fulmer received a law degree from Michigan Law School. The University of Michigan Law School said it has no record of Fulmer graduating.

The website also states that Fulmer graduated from Northern Kentucky University, but that school's alumni association doesn't have a record of him receiving a degree.  Thomas More College confirmed the school district's website information that Fulmer graduated from the small Catholic liberal arts school in Crestview Hills. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history in December 1998 and an associate of arts in pre-legal studies.

Wethington said Fulmer would have provided the biographical information to the school board and that he presented himself as a Michigan law grad.  'I've known Kelly for a long time,'  Wethington said after being told of the investigation. 'I'm greatly surprised at these allegations, and I'm praying ... he will be able to vindicate himself, but I guess the legal process will follow its course.'  Wethington said Fulmer had always been aboveboard in any personal dealings.  'It is a shocking allegation - believe me,'  Wethington said.

The Fulmer whose qualifications to practice law are in question is not the same person as William K. Fulmer II, who is a licensed lawyer who has had a practice in Florence since 1991. William K. Fulmer II, whose middle name is Kelly, said he has never been associated with Kelly F. Fulmer in legal or other business ventures.

Kelly F. Fulmer grew up in Walton and graduated from Walton-Verona High School in 1994. He is active in politics in southern Boone County and was campaign treasurer for Walton City Council member Wayne Carlisle, who is running for mayor. Fulmer resigned Wednesday evening.  When Carlisle was called by a reporter seeking comment on the investigation, he said he thought it was a prank call from a friend.  'I am just absolutely devastated over it,' Carlisle said. 'I would have never thought something like that. I'm not going to get a whole lot of sleep tonight over this.'

Florence lawyer Edward S. Monohan V became suspicious of Fulmer's credentials this month when a woman came to his office after she became unhappy with Fulmer's representation during a probate matter in Boone District Court.  He said he had never met Fulmer, but immediately became suspicious of his qualifications because of his 'sloppy' legal work.  'I thought, 'No attorney would ever do this,' Monohan said. 'The strange thing was that everyone thought this guy was an attorney,' he said.

Monahan claimed in court filings that Fulmer had misappropriated some money from an estate. Four days after Monohan asked a judge to order Fulmer to turn over the money, Fulmer gave the court a cashier's check from The Bank of Kentucky for $449,301.

Monohan said he is concerned about the ease someone was able to practice law without a license. 'There needs to be some changes made out there. You got people out there who are relying on attorneys to do things the right way. The big concern I had was things were being done not the right way, and there was a lot of money involved.'"
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When I began working in law offices in downtown OurTown law offices, as a law clerk, in the late 1970s there were still practicing attorneys who had never gone to law school.  At some point years before you could "study for the bar," and if you were able to "pass the bar exam" you became an attorney, no formal education required.  I suppose this happened more often in family run law firms where you could start out working for a parent, grandparent or uncle as an apprenticeship.   

In my early years in the profession there were no "registration" number assigned to each attorney (in fact when numbers came into being, I was one of the first 3000 lawyers registered in OurState.)  All lawyers in those years traditionally displayed their "license" ontheir office walls which was issued by the OurState Supreme Court.

This news story makes me wonder how many of the so-called "lawyers," never actually went through the formalities.  I'm guessing more than a few.  It's really interesting to me.  My era really saw the beginning of codified rules, uniform statutes, and strict professional responsibility supervison.  I was talking to an old friend recently, and he commented that "all the old 'characters' are gone."  Not quite.

5 comments:

  1. When I got out of law school, I clerked for a lawyer whose law degree came from a night course once offered by the Columbus YMCA. The old characters aren't quite all gone but now they all have numbers

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  3. Oh well. At least I know a true family law lawyer. Los Angeles lawyers are trustworthy. I know I can find a trustworthy lawyer who can help me with all things concerning family laws.

    Knowing that the population of attorneys in the country is growing, you should first look into the lawyer's profile before totally trusting the attorney. I know a credible family law attorney. Los Angeles has been her home court, and a lot of people know her as a good family law attorney.

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  4. I am so glad to see Kelly Fulmer get what was coming to him. For all the pain he has caused others, his punishment should have been a lot worse.

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  5. This joker is running for School Board, Again. Sadly, He may actually get elected.

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