Not being an attorney in Utah didn’t stop one woman’s quest to practice law. It should have.
When the Deseret News calls a case “bizarre,” you know that the story is going to be juicy. In Karla Carbo’s case, part of what’s juicy about it is where she got up to so much trouble. A lot of crazy stuff goes down in the Salt Lake Valley, and maybe that’s why Carbo thought she could fly under the radar up high in the mountains, but her impersonation of an attorney in Utah in Summit County landed her somewhere she absolutely hadn’t planned on: jail.
Park City isn’t known for its crime or intrigue—usually the most exciting disputes involve ski and snow resorts, but Karla Carbo takes the cake for stirring up trouble in the tourist town. Charged with identity theft, two counts of forgery and communications fraud, Carbo may be scrambling to hire a real attorney in Utah. You know, not like the one she was impersonating. “Investigators say she has represented herself as an attorney in several court jurisdictions using the name of an actual attorney and that attorney’s bar number.” She probably couldn’t get the attorney in Utah that she impersonated to represent her, but hey, wouldn’t that be irony.
You’ve got to hand it to this lady for having some guts of steel, even if they only served to put her behind bars of steel. She even went so far as to open “her own law office and hire a man who recently passed the bar legitimately but had no idea he was being hired by a fake attorney.” And the future is kind of sticky and uncertain for those clients who Carbo was allegedly representing: “information on how many and what will now happen to those cases” isn’t immediately available.
It was the attorney in Utah who Carbo was impersonating who finally cracked the case when the state contacted her “with a question regarding a recently completed court matter, and she had no idea what they were talking about.” The real attorney dug a little deeper and discovered that Carbo was using her name and license number to represent clients in criminal cases, an area of law in which she had never practiced.
And okay, we know it’s not that funny, even if it seems ridiculous and outlandish. The clients Carbo was falsely representing were real people, with real cases, “and we know of at least one person out there now who has pled guilty to a crime without having a competent attorney,” which is a pretty big deal, when it’s your life—possibly in prison—on the line. Thankfully, that defendant gets a do-over.
Carbo’s case has brought up the fact that attorneys in Utah have to provide their name and bar number in a courtroom appearance, but they don’t have to show photo ID. This is apparently the first time the Utah State Bar has heard of “someone actually going into a courtroom impersonating a real attorney and handling real court cases.” One thing is for sure: Carbo must have watched every court TV show to handle herself in a courtroom without raising too many eyebrows.