A woman who was retained as counsel for a defendant in Lewis County Superior Court last year is now facing felony charges for unlawful practice of law.
The woman, Malika M. Duke, 44, of Spokane, is accused of representing a Centralia man in a Lewis County Superior Court case despite not having an attorney license in Washington state.
The defendant in that case, Dean E. Phillips, 54, of Centralia, was convicted by a jury for second-degree extortion in December 2021. Phillips had attempted to extort $500,000 from a Centralia police officer in April 2021.
He was sentenced to 70 days in partial confinement under electronic home monitoring in early 2022 but was later arrested for violation of his home monitoring. In May 2022, he was ordered to serve the remaining eight days of his sentence in jail. As of January 2023, he had completed his jail sentence and had filed an appeal to have his conviction overturned.
Duke signed on as Phillips’ “attorney-in-fact” in February 2022 by sending a notice to the court stating, “This notice is to inform you that the private and peaceable man, Dean-Ervin of the family Phillips, has retained me, Malika Duke, as counsel and that you and other parties have been reported for negligence, incompetence and/or criminal intent against him via a state and federal tort claim,” according to documents filed in Lewis County Superior Court.
“Ms. Duke is not an attorney licensed in the state of Washington,” wrote the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office in an affidavit of probable cause for the charges against Duke.
The prosecutor’s office states it sent Duke a letter on Feb. 15 informing her it is a criminal offense to practice law without a license in Washington state.
Several days later, on Feb. 24, Duke appeared in court as Phillips’ counsel. When asked by the court if she was Phillips’ attorney, she reportedly said “I am his counsel” and later said “I am an attorney of fact,” according to court documents.
Court records indicate she continued to function as Phillips’ attorney through at least April 19, 2022.
Duke was charged with three counts of unlawful practice of law in Lewis County Superior Court on Jan. 9.
Under Washington state law, a single count of unlawful practice is a gross misdemeanor while subsequent counts are class C felonies, which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Duke was issued a court summons on Jan. 11 ahead of a mandatory Jan. 31 preliminary hearing, which she was not present for.
The court has issued a $10,000 bench warrant for her arrest.