proceeding in discipline.
Kimberly L. Knoll, Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, argued
the cause, and Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary
Administrator, was with her on the formal complaint for the
Matthew Edgar Hult, respondent, appeared pro se.
an original proceeding in discipline filed by the office of
the Disciplinary Administrator against the respondent,
Matthew Edgar Hult, of Olathe, an attorney admitted to the
practice of law in Kansas in 2012.
March 14, 2017, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator
filed a formal complaint against the respondent alleging
violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct
(KRPC). The respondent failed to file an answer. On May 15,
respondent emailed a document titled Motion to Continue the
hearing date. The hearing panel filed an order on May 17,
denying respondent's motion. On May 19, respondent filed
a proposed probation plan. On May 23, respondent filed a
document entitled "pleading" in which he admitted
that he violated KRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 1.16, 3.2, 3.4(c), 8.3,
and 8.4(d), and Kansas Supreme Court Rules 207 and 211.
Respondent also stipulated that he violated KRPC 8.1(b);
however, the disciplinary administrator did not charge
respondent with violation of that rule. A hearing was held on
the complaint before a panel of the
Board for Discipline of Attorneys on May 23, where the
respondent was personally present. The hearing panel
determined that respondent violated KRPC 1.1 (2018 Kan. S.Ct.
R. 289) (competence); 1.3 (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 292)
(diligence); 1.4(a) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 293) (communication);
1.5 (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 294) (fees); 1.15(a) (2018 Kan. S.Ct.
R. 328) (safekeeping property); 1.16(d) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R.
333) (termination of representation); 3.2 (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R.
343) (expediting litigation); 3.4(c) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 347)
(fairness to opposing party and counsel); 8.4(d) (2018 Kan.
S.Ct. R. 381) (engaging in conduct prejudicial to the
administration of justice); 8.3(a) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 380)
(reporting professional misconduct); Kansas Supreme Court
Rule 207(c) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 246) (failure to report
action); and Kansas Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (2018 Kan.
S.Ct. R. 251) (failure to file answer in disciplinary
conclusion of the hearing, the panel made the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with its
recommendation to this court:
. . . .
After being admitted to practice law in Kansas, the
respondent established an immigration practice. In addition
to his Kansas office, the respondent opened an office in
Sioux City, Iowa. While the respondent was not licensed to
practice law in the state courts of Iowa, his license to
practice law in Kansas authorized him to practice immigration
law in Iowa under Iowa Rule 32:5.5, which provides as
'(d) A lawyer admitted in another United States
jurisdiction, and not disbarred or suspended from practice in
any jurisdiction, may provide legal services in this
. . . .
(2) are services that the lawyer is authorized to provide by
federal law or other law of this jurisdiction.'
In Iowa, when an attorney establishes a practice under Iowa
Rule 32:5.5(d)(2), the attorney must comply with Iowa Rule
'An attorney who establishes an office or other
systematic and continuous presence in Iowa for the practice
of law under the provisions of rule of professional conduct
32:5.5(d)(2) shall file the annual statement required by rule
39.8(1) and annual questionnaire required by rule 39.11, pay
the annual fee and assessment due under rules 39.5 and 39.6,
comply with all provisions of chapter 45, cooperate with
investigations and audits under rule 39.10, and be subject to
the provisions of rule 39.12.'
The respondent failed to file the annual statement required
by Iowa Rule 39.8(1), failed to file the annual questionnaire
required by Iowa Rule 39.11, failed to pay the annual fee and
assessment due under Iowa Rules 39.5 and 39.6, and failed to
maintain a trust account as required by Iowa rule 45.1
('funds a lawyer receives from clients or third persons
for matters arising out of the practice of law in Iowa shall
be deposited into one or more identifiable interest-bearing
trust accounts located in Iowa').
In April 2013, the respondent was notified of his obligations
under the Iowa rules by the Office of Professional Regulation
of the Iowa Supreme Court. The correspondence directed the
respondent to comply with the provisions of the rules within
30 days. The respondent failed to comply with the directives
contained in the correspondence.
On December 9, 2013, the respondent completed the statement
and questionnaire. In the questionnaire, the respondent
disclosed that he did not keep all funds of clients for
matters involving the practice of law in Iowa in separate
interest-bearing trust accounts located in Iowa. The
respondent also stated that all retainers, regardless of
size, are not deposited in his trust account. For further
explanation, the respondent stated that he does not keep
client funds, that he worked only on immigration cases, that
all fees are earned on a flat fee basis, and that the flat
fees are deposited into his business account. Along with the
statement and questionnaire, the respondent forwarded the fee
in the amount of $225.00 to the Iowa registration authority
In January 2014, the respondent notified the registration
authority in Iowa that he was closing his Sioux City office.
Because his December 2013, statement and questionnaire had
not been processed yet, the registration authority in Iowa
withdrew the respondent's statement and questionnaire and
returned the fee paid.
On February 28, 2014, the respondent vacated his office space
in Sioux City, Iowa. However, the respondent continued to
maintain a website advertising his immigration law practice
Sometime in 2014, a complaint was filed against the
respondent with the Iowa attorney disciplinary board for his
failure to comply with the trust account rules and the
multijurisdictional practice registration rules.
On October 27, 2014, Charles Harrington, the Administrator
for the attorney disciplinary board, wrote to the respondent.
The letter provided:
'The above complaint filed against you came on for
reconsideration by the Board at its recent hearing meeting.
'The Board found that at all times relevant to the
complaint you maintained an office in Sioux City for the
practice of federal immigration law. You were admitted to the
practice of law in Kansas but not in Iowa except as permitted
by Iowa R. Prof'l Conduct 32:5.5(d)(2). The Board has
jurisdiction as to your professional conduct in Iowa pursuant
to Iowa R. Prof'l Conduct 32:8.5(a) (lawyer not admitted
in Iowa is subject to disciplinary authority of Iowa if
lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in
'In April 2013, you received correspondence from the
Office of Professional Regulation of the Supreme Court of
Iowa (OPR) that you were required to comply with Iowa Ct. R.
39.16 (attorneys practicing in Iowa under multijurisdictional
practice rule) and other rules regulating multijurisdictional
practice in the state. This included detailed information
about relevant provisions of the Iowa Rules of Court,
including chapter 32 (Rules of Professional Conduct), chapter
39 (Client Security Commission), and chapter 45 (Client Trust
Account Rules). OPR's letter emphasized in bold font,
"The [Client Security Commission
Combined Statement and Questionnaire] report form due
in 2013 is enclosed. You must prepare and file this form with
our office within 30 days after the date of this memorandum,
with the fees shown on the form and described
'You continued to practice immigration law in Iowa for
another eight months without filing the required report and
paying the fees. Finally, in December 2013 you belatedly
filed the report and paid the fees. (In early 2014 you closed
your office in Sioux City and the Board has received no
information indicating you continued to practice in Iowa.)
'The Board concluded that your practice in Iowa for many
months without timely compliance with rule 39.16 was contrary
to Iowa R. Prof'l Conduct 32:5.5(a) (lawyer shall not
practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation
of the legal profession in that jurisdiction).
'The Board's investigation disclosed another serious
concern regarding your former practice in the state. In the
statement you filed with the Client Security Commission in
December 2013, you acknowledged you did not keep all funds of
clients for matters involving the practice of law in Iowa in
a client trust account and that you did not even have an Iowa
trust account. You explained you charged only flat fees, not
"retainers." The Board found that you considered
these flat fees to be earned upon receipt and prior to
completion of the clients' cases.
'Although you sought to distinguish a flat fee from a
retainer, Iowa case law holds that a flat fee is a
"special retainer" and must be deposited into a
client trust account, to be withdrawn only as earned. See
Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Denton,
814 N.W.2d 548, 551 (Iowa 2012) (reprimanding Colorado lawyer
for failing to deposit a flat fee paid by Iowa client in
federal immigration matter into a client trust account). Iowa
R. Prof'l Conduct 32:1.15(a) requires a lawyer to hold a
client's funds separate from the lawyer's own funds.
32:1.15(c) provides that "[a] lawyer shall deposit into
a client trust account legal fees and expenses that have been
paid in advance, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees
are earned or expenses incurred."
'Iowa Ct. R. 45.10 specifically addresses the handling of
"(1) Definition. A flat fee is one that
embraces all services that a lawyer is to perform, whether
the work be relatively simple or complex.
"(2) When deposit required. If the client makes
an advance payment of a flat fee prior to performance of the
services, the lawyer must deposit the fee into the trust
"(3) Withdrawal of flat fee. A lawyer and
client may agree as to when, how, and in what proportion the
lawyer may withdraw funds from an advance fee payment of a
flat fee. The agreement, however, must reasonably protect the
client's right to a refund of unearned fees if the lawyer
fails to complete the services or the client discharges the
lawyer. In no event may the lawyer withdraw unearned
See Iowa R. Prof'l conduct 32:1.15(f) (requiring
compliance with chapter 45 rules).
'The Board concluded you violated rules 32:1.15(a),
32:1.15(c), and 32:1.15(f) by failing to maintain a client
trust account in Iowa and by failing to deposit advance flat
fee payments into such an account.
'It was the determination of the Board that you be and
hereby are publicly reprimanded for violating Iowa's
client trust account and multijurisdictional practice
Also on October 27, 2014, the Clerk of the Grievance
Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa wrote to the
respondent, enclosing a copy of the Iowa attorney
disciplinary board's letter and notifying respondent that
he had 30 days to file exceptions to the Board's letter.
The respondent failed to file exceptions to the board's
On January 15, 2015, the Iowa Supreme Court publicly
reprimanded the respondent.
The Iowa disciplinary authority forwarded the materials to
the Kansas disciplinary administrator. The Kansas
disciplinary administrator docketed the materials as a
complaint against the respondent. On January 28, 2015, the
disciplinary administrator sent a letter to the respondent
directing the respondent to file a response to the complaint
within 20 days.
On February 13, 2015, the respondent filed a response to the
complaint, stating in relevant part:
'Firstly, I would like to explain the situation that took
place in Iowa. I had a small office there to handle only
Federal Immigration cases, which I can practice in all fifty
states of the U.S.A. The Iowa Bar contacted me and wanted me
to pay a fee for being a lawyer practicing in the state, but
not licensed in Iowa. So I paid the fee. Then I decided to
close the office in Iowa. That is when I was contacted by the
office, and was told that they would refund the fee to me,
because I was not going to be practicing in Iowa. They then
refunded the fee, and I made arrangements with the office
rental company to close and move out of the office, which I
did. No deadlines were ever issued to me on when I had to
leave the State.
'Subsequently, after closing the office they filed a
complaint against me for not closing the office and for not
paying the fee. I submitted to them a written letter from the
property company that I had indeed closed the office. The
part where I faltered was that I did not shut down the office
website immediately, and to the disciplinary agency in Iowa
that was evidence that I was still practicing there. So I
then submitted documents that showed I did indeed shut down
the website, and had vacated the office, and the State of
'The above actions did not satisfy them. They did not set
any deadline for me to close the business, and I did pay the
fee, but they returned it to me. I provided evidence that I
had closed the office and left the State. I feel like they
are treating me unfairly since I am not a licensed attorney
in the State of Iowa, but there was no reasoning with them,
even after I submitted the necessary evidence. They decided
to railroad me because they knew I would have no ability to
defend myself. I object to their decision to file a complaint
In his response, the respondent did not address his failure
to establish and maintain a trust account in Iowa.
Additionally, respondent did not acknowledge his failure to
comply with the Iowa multijurisdictional practice
In 2014, J.W. retained the respondent to obtain citizenship
for his two step-children who were residing in Kenya.
According to the fee agreement, J.W. retained the respondent
on May 29, 2014. According to J.W., he retained the
respondent on September 1, 201.
In the fee agreement, J.W. agreed to pay the respondent $1,
160 for attorney fees and $840 for filing fees. J.W. paid the
fees over time. By January 26, 2015, J.W. had paid the
respondent in full.
The respondent did not deposit the $840.00 paid for filing
fees into an attorney trust account. The respondent did not
have a trust account.
On September 26, 2014, J.W. and his wife, T.W., wrote to the
respondent seeking an update regarding the status of the
representation. On September 29, 2014, the respondent
responded to J.W., stating, 'Everything is moving ahead,
we should be getting receipts for their cases from the
government in a couple of weeks.'
J.W. and T.W. called the respondent by telephone multiple
times. The respondent failed to return J.W. and T.W.'s
On November 24, 2014, J.W. and T.W. wrote to the respondent,
again seeking a status update. Although the record does not
contain the respondent's response, he clearly responded
to J.W. and T.W.'s inquiry. Later, on November 24, 2014,
J.W. and T.W. thanked the respondent for the response and
requested the United States Custom and Immigration Services
('USCIS') receipt numbers. At that time, they
reminded the respondent that J.W.'s mother also wished to
sponsor the children. The respondent did not provide J.W. and
T.W. with the USCIS receipt numbers.
On January 6, 2015, J.W. wrote to the respondent:
'I am writing to ask please, please [sic]
respond to my text and phone calls, You are our hope!!!!!!
I've [sic] called and text [sic]
without any returns, or guidance please let me know of any
progress if any. Are you waiting for full payment to help
us??? Please if so let us know immediately as I will send it
now. Also please send receipts for payment sent. I don't
[sic] see why you don't [sic] send
updates periodically, you [sic] do carry our our
[sic] hope in your hands. Please understand our
concerns and send updates immediately.'
On January 7, 2015, the respondent responded to J.W. and
'My assistant says you have been trying to reach.
[sic] I apologize for not responding, but I am away
on vacation since Christmas. This is our slowest time of ...