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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley tax preparer has misled clients that he is an attorney, Washington Attorney General’s Office says

The Spokane County Courthouse is seen in this August 2020 photo.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Courthouse is seen in this August 2020 photo. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

A Spokane Valley tax preparer who advertises himself as an attorney and has been disbarred by two local tribal courts now faces a deceptive business practices complaint from the state Attorney General’s Office.

Zachary Love, listed as the owner of ZEL & Associates, faces three allegations of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act by representing himself as an attorney, primarily practicing in tribal courts in the region. The complaint was filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court and seeks to dissolve Love’s business, as well as prevent him from appearing in the courtroom or representing clients on tax matters.

Reached by phone Thursday, Love said he “firmly denies” all claims against him, defended his academic background and suggested he would take legal action against the Attorney General’s Office for the allegations. In a lengthier statement issued through his attorney, Love defended his academic background, professional affiliations and denied misrepresenting his credentials.

“Mr. Love intends to fight this case vigorously. Mr. Love does not misrepresent his credentials to the public, to courts, or to bar associations. He is an active lawyer member of the American Bar Association and is licensed to practice law in several jurisdictions, but he does not claim to be a member of the Washington State Bar Association yet,” the statement, from Love’s attorney Jack Lovejoy of the firm Corr Cronin LLP in Seattle, reads.

“Respected judges in Spokane County Superior Court have allowed him to appear as an attorney in several cases,” the statement continues. “He looks forward to defending his reputation and continuing to serve his clients.”

Love also expressed surprise at the complaint, saying he hadn’t seen it until a call from The Spokesman-Review asking about the lawsuit.

A voicemail greeting on his cellphone identified Love as an “attorney.” The Attorney General’s Office notes that Love is not admitted to the bar in the state of Washington, a fact Love does not dispute.

Love’s website indicates that his firm practices tribal law and tax preparation. But the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation announced in June 2021 that they had disbarred Love from serving as a “spokesperson” in the tribal court because he’d “repeatedly and aggressively misrepresented himself as an attorney, when he is not in fact an attorney.” The Kalispel Tribe and Coeur d’Alene Tribe also disbarred Love in March 2022 and June 2022, according to the attorney general’s complaint.

Love said he was still admitted to practice before tribes in Wisconsin and California, but did not dispute the disbarments in Washington and Idaho. He said he believes the disbarment in the Colville Reservation tribal court was retaliatory after he represented clients from fuel stations challenging the tribe’s authority to tax them.

The Attorney General’s Office also alleges that Love’s advertisements about his credentials misstate his professional affiliations and where he studied the law. Love’s website indicates he “graduated from Purdue University with a professional law degree (Doctorate of Jurisprudence.)” His degree is from the Purdue University Global Concord Law School, an online program that is part of the Purdue University system based in Indiana. However, the degree is an expedited program that is “for those who have no intention of becoming a practicing attorney,” according to the school’s website, separate from a four-year online program designed for people pursuing admission to the bar.

Love also claimed to be a member of the Northwest Indian Bar Association and the American Bar Association on his website, the Attorney General’s Office said. The attorney general said Love is ineligible to become a member of the Northwest Indian Bar Association, and his membership with the American Bar Association was approved after he “self-identified as a lawyer in his application.” That was a misrepresentation, the attorney general alleges, and the membership does not “entitle him to hold himself out as an attorney entitled to practice law, in any jurisdiction.”

The case has been assigned to Spokane County Superior Court Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren. A hearing is scheduled for June.

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