David Walocha approached the bench last week in Douglas County Court.
The last time he did so he was an unlicensed attorney representing an Omaha man on a DUI. This time he was the defendant, charged with two misdemeanor counts of unauthorized practice of law.
Prosecutor Katie Benson noted that those counts were just two of the 65 cases that Walocha handled while his law license was suspended from 1998 to 2011 for failing to pay his annual bar association dues.
Benson said the statute of limitations precluded prosecutors from bringing charges over dozens of other cases, including five felony cases that Walocha handled without a law license.
Walocha pleaded guilty to the two counts — and his attorney, Robb Gage, asked the judge to impose a fine. Gage noted that Walocha owned up to his actions and has since been disbarred.
In the often-rushed cattle call that is county court, Judge Joseph Caniglia paused for a moment.
He tapped his pen on the dais. He looked over the file.
“This is a serious offense,” he said.
After another long pause, Caniglia rejected Walocha's pleas for a fine. He instead sentenced Walocha to 30 days in jail.
Walocha, 43, left in the same manner as some of his former clients: with a jail sentence looming over his head. Caniglia allowed him to report to the Douglas County Jail on Monday morning.
The sentencing ends Walocha's case but it likely won't be the last consequence of his actions.
An Omaha man is awaiting word on whether he will receive a new trial after being convicted in connection with the sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl.
Douglas County District Judge James Gleason must decide whether Patrick Vanderpool's conviction and 10- to 15-year sentence should be overturned based on Vanderpool's contention that he was denied his constitutional right to an attorney when Walocha appeared on his behalf.
And Chief Justice Mike Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court has asked court staff and attorneys to come up with ways to address the gaps that allowed Walocha to appear in dozens of courtrooms without a law license.
Among the gaps, Nebraska has no online database that the public or court staff can search to find out the status of an attorney and the details of any disciplinary actions. The Iowa Supreme Court, on the other hand, allows people to search by name and find scanned documents outlining any formal disciplinary actions against a lawyer.
Heavican said he expects to receive a report and recommendations this fall.
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