Strange Case: CA5 Affirms Fed. Conviction of Man Fraudulently Licensed by the Cherokee Nation Bar

Here is the opinion in United States v. Richardson.

A few tidbits:

On May 12, 2010, Richardson entered his appearance as Reyes’s attorney before the Board of Immigration Appeals, stating that he was admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Cherokee Nation, and filed an appeal of the immigration judge’s order that had removed Reyes to Mexico. This latter action was done notwithstanding the fact that Reyes had already been removed from the country.


The Clerk’s Office was aware of the irregularities with Richardson’s license because on June 29, Richardson had given Flores a “motion and order for admission pro hac vice.” On the motion, Richardson had filled out the date; case caption; his name; and his firm’s name (The Law Office of Dale A. Richardson), address, and telephone number. He had signed it, as well. He had indicated that he was an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and in the Cherokee Nation, and provided purported bar numbers for each jurisdiction. Richardson had submitted additional documentation with the motion and order, including: (1) a Cherokee Nation “attorney badge”; (2) a certificate from the American Bar Association (“ABA”); and (3) bar cards from the ABA, Massachusetts Bar Association (“MBA”), and Cherokee Nation Bar Association. Flores file-stamped the motion as received in court on June 29, 2010. Relying on the representations in the motion and order, Judge Hacker granted the motion and signed it before the Clerk’s Office verified Richardson’s license information out of concern that verification would require holding Reyes in jail for another 24 hours when the Government had already moved to dismiss the case. The motion was then sent to the Clerk’s Office for verification.


On March 17, 2009, Richardson had applied for admission to practice in the Cherokee Nation, a tribal government in Oklahoma that has judicial authority over lands held by the tribe. The Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation admits attorneys into its bar, provided the attorney submits an application and is a licensed attorney in good standing in another jurisdiction. The Cherokee Nation does not license attorneys, but only admits them to practice in its court system. On his application, Richardson stated he had graduated from “The California School of Law” in 2007 and was licensed in California. He also had submitted a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of California that turned out to be fabricated from a basic template. Investigators also learned that the California bar number Richardson had provided on his application belonged to David Allen Richardson, a Sacramento, California, attorney who had been admitted to the California bar in December 2007. David Richardson testified that he never gave Richardson permission to use his bar number.
On April 30, 2009, Richardson received notice that his admission had been approved, although he never actually took the oath of admission. Along with its notice of admission, the Cherokee Nation had sent Richardson a bar card and assigned him a bar number. From these materials, Richardson had fabricated a Cherokee Nation “attorney badge.” The FBI learned that the Cherokee Nation does not issue badges and, as pointed out during the trial, the badge had the seal of the State of Oklahoma instead of the seal of the Cherokee Nation. Richardson was disbarred by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court in October 2010, after it learned he was not, in fact, licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction.
The FBI also learned that, on November 4, 2009, Richardson had applied for admission to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma under the name, David Allen Richardson, Jr. He had claimed to have attended “The Washington College of Law” and the “University of London,” and to have been a member of the bars of the Cherokee Nation, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. He had submitted with his application his business card, ABA card, Cherokee Nation bar card, a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of the State of California, and a letter from the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court notifying Richardson of his admission to its court.
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