Kelcie Miller, Who Practiced Law Despite Failing the Bar Exam, Charged Criminally


  • Kelcie Miller.

A fake lawyer accused of scamming her way into a public defender's job was charged today with forgery, theft and impersonating an attorney.

Kelcie Miller, 26, of Edwardsville, Illinois, was taken into custody yesterday by Madison County Sheriff's deputies after it was revealed that she had been practicing law for more than seven months, despite not being admitted by the Illinois bar. Miller failed the state's bar exam twice.

She worked for the Madison County Public Defender's Office and was only caught after a court reporter tried to double check the spelling of her first name against a state list of licensed attorneys.

Her stunned boss, Public Defender John Rekowski, told reporters on Wednesday at a news conference that it never even occurred to him to check her license.

"This is so unbelievably foreign as to how my profession operates," Rekowski said during the conference, recorded by the Belleville News-Democrat. "I'll tell you this, it will never happen again."

Kelcie Miller failed the bar exam twice, but she claimed on Instagram to have "tons" of tips. - INSTAGRAM
  • Kelcie Miller failed the bar exam twice, but she claimed on Instagram to have "tons" of tips.

Miller, who has since been fired, had graduated from Valparaiso University's law school and kept her degree "neatly framed" on the wall of her office, Rekowski said. On Instagram, she posed in her cap and gown in front of a set of law books. When a friend commented on the photo, asking for tips passing the bar exam, Miller replied, "text me I have tons!"

In reality, she failed the exam twice. But that didn't stop her from landing the public defender's job.

Miller worked on about 80 cases during her time in the office, Rekowski said. Generally, her caseload involved lower-level crimes typically handled by new attorneys, but there were signs she was working her way up. She has assisted on the high-profile case of Zachary Capers, who is accused of stabbing an elderly couple to death in 2017.

The charges against Miller allege that she is guilty of theft for accepting a salary under false pretenses. The forgery charge relates to a fraudulent state attorney's registration card, according to the criminal complaint.

Rekowski said that nothing in her work that made him suspicious and nobody had previously raised red flags. All the cases she worked on are now being reviewed by her former colleagues.

"I've just had no reason to ever think anybody would do this," Rekowski said.  "The big lie sometimes is better than the small one."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

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