ELKO – The owner of a document preparation service was arrested Monday on two counts of practicing law without a license.
Deborah Barnhart, 49, was issued a City of Elko business license in February 2017 for DPS of Northern Nevada. A criminal complaint was filed against her in December charging two misdemeanor counts of unlawful practice of law.
According to the complaint, Barnhart appeared in Elko District Court on behalf a client and signed a request for submission for a legal name change. District Judge Nancy Porter ruled in April 2018 against the name change, citing that Barnhart was not a licensed attorney and not allowed to practice law.
Barnhart is also accused of appearing in court on behalf of the parties in an estate case.
A detective began investigating Barnhart in May after a representative of the Cavanaugh-Bill law offices contacted the district attorney and described “a couple of instances where she has had contact with the opposing side of her client that has identified Barnhart to her as being their attorney.”
In one case not included in the complaint, Barnhart allegedly told a client that she did not qualify for alimony in her divorce proceedings, and also provided her with advice about a landlord dispute.
Documents and the detective’s recordings of client interviews were forwarded to the district attorney for prosecution.
Barnhart’s documentation service advertised that she could prepare divorce papers, wills, name changes and other legal documents at a lower cost than an attorney.
“Forms just don’t intimidate me,” she told the Elko Daily Free Press in a 2017 interview about her new business.