In the Matter of Curtis N. Holmes, Respondent.
Original proceeding in discipline. One-year suspension.
R. Moylan, Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, argued the
case, and Deborah L. Hughes, Deputy Disciplinary
Administrator, and Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary
Administrator, were on the brief for the petitioner.
N. Holmes, respondent, argued the cause and was on the brief
for respondent pro se.
a contested original proceeding in discipline filed by the
office of the Disciplinary Administrator against respondent,
Curtis N. Holmes, of De Soto, an attorney admitted to the
practice of law in Kansas in 2008. After Holmes appeared in
person for a hearing before a panel of the Kansas Board for
Discipline of Attorneys, the panel unanimously determined he
violated Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC) 1.4
(2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 293) (communication); 1.16(a)(1) (2018
Kan. S.Ct. R. 333) (withdrawing from representation); 5.5(a)
(2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 363) (unauthorized practice of law); 8.1
(2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 379) (false statement in connection with
disciplinary matter); 8.4(c) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 381)
(engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
misrepresentation); and 8.4(d) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 381)
(engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of
justice); and Kansas Supreme Court Rule 218(a) (2018 Kan.
S.Ct. R. 262) (notification of clients upon suspension).
the panel, the disciplinary administrator recommended a
6-month suspension from the practice of law. The panel
ultimately recommended a 1-year suspension. At the hearing
before this court, the disciplinary administrator endorsed
the panel's findings but continued to recommend a 6-month
suspension. Holmes filed certain exceptions to the
panel's findings, as well as to the recommended
discipline. Before the panel and this court, Holmes requested
that he be placed on probation. However, he has not complied
with Supreme Court Rule 211(g) (2018 Kan. S.Ct. R. 251)
requiring him to immediately implement his proposed plan and
later provide the Clerk of the Appellate Courts and the
disciplinary administrator an affidavit that he is complying
with the terms and conditions of the proposed plan.
that clear and convincing evidence establishes the rule
violations found by the panel, and we agree with the panel
that a 1-year suspension is the appropriate discipline. A
minority of this court would impose a less severe sanction.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
January 9, 2017, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator
filed a formal complaint against respondent alleging
violations of the KRPC. Holmes filed an answer on February 6,
2017, and an amended answer on April 24, 2017. A hearing was
held on the complaint before a panel of the Kansas Board for
Discipline of Attorneys on May 9, 2017, at which Holmes
conclusion of the hearing, the panel made the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with its
recommendation to this court:
"Findings of Fact . . . .
Rule 208(a) requires all attorneys to register with the Clerk
of the Appellate Courts and pay the annual registration fee
prior to July 1 each year. The rule includes a
'grace' period, providing attorneys until July 31 of
each year to forward the form and pay the annual registration
fee without penalty. However, '[a]ttorney registration
fees received by the Clerk of the Appellate Courts after July
31 of the year in which due shall be accompanied by a $100
late payment fee.' Rule 208(d).
On July 29, 2015, the respondent mailed his attorney
registration form and fee to the Clerk of the Appellate
Courts. The Clerk did not receive the respondent's
registration form and fee until after July 31, 2015. Under
Rule 208(d), the respondent was required to pay a late fee of
$100 because the registration form and fee were not received
until after July 31, 2015. The respondent failed to provide
the late fee of $100.
On August 8, 2015, the respondent received a letter from the
Clerk of the Appellate Courts, sent via certified
mail, informing the respondent that his registration had not
been received before August 1, 2015, and that his license to
practice law would be suspended if he did not pay the late
fee of $100 within 30 days. The respondent did not pay the
late fee of $100 within 30 days.
On October 6, 2015, the Supreme Court entered an order
suspending the respondent's license to practice law for
failing to pay the late fee of $100. On October 8, 2015, the
Clerk sent the order of suspension to the respondent by
certified mail to the respondent at the respondent's
registration address. Prior to the entry of the order of
suspension, the respondent was on notice that such an order
would follow if the respondent did not pay the late fee.
On October 13, 2015, the United States Postal Service
attempted to deliver the certified mailing at 4:32 p.m.,
leaving a notice.
On October 14, 2015, prior to 10:48 a.m., the respondent
called the Clerk of the Appellate Courts and spoke with
Debbie Uhl. During the conversation, the respondent stated
that he had mailed the registration form and fee in plenty of
time to arrive before August 3, 2015, that he had received
the notice regarding the late fee, and that he did not
believe that he owed the late fee, so he did not send it.
At the hearing on this matter, the witnesses' testimony
varied regarding what Ms. Uhl stated during the telephone
conversation. Based on all the evidence presented to the
hearing panel, the hearing panel concludes that Ms. Uhl
informed the respondent that the Supreme Court had suspended
the respondent's license to practice law. Ms. Uhl asked
the respondent if he had received the order of suspension.
The respondent indicated that he had not received the order
of suspension. Thus, despite the fact that the respondent had
not yet signed for the certified mail, he had actual
knowledge that his license was suspended on October 14, 2015.
After the respondent's license to practice law was
suspended, the respondent continued to practice law in
multiple cases, as detailed below.
G.M., E.M., and El.M. rented property from C.W. C.W. asserted
that . . . . G.M., E.M., and El.M. failed to timely pay their
rent. As a result, C.W. filed an eviction suit against G.M.,
E.M., and El.M. Carol Hall represented C.W. in the eviction
action. The respondent represented G.M., E.M., and El.M. in
the eviction action.
Additional difficulties arose between the parties, and C.W.
filed a protection from stalking case against G.M.,
Leavenworth County District Court Case No. 2015-DM-828. G.M.
then filed a protection from stalking case against C.W.,
Leavenworth County District Court Case No. 2015-DM-854.
Robert H. Hall, Carol Hall's husband and law partner,
represented C.W. in the protection from stalking cases.
On October 14, 2015, the Honorable Michael D. Gibbens held a
hearing in the eviction case at 1:00 p.m. While the
respondent was in the courtroom shortly before 1:00 p.m., he
left the courtroom and went into the hallway to look for his
clients just before the case was called. G.M., E.M., and
El.M. arrived and met with the respondent regarding the
The judge called the case. G.M., E.M., and El.M. did not
appear. Additionally, the respondent was not in the courtroom
when the judge called the case. As a result, the court
entered default judgment and a writ for possession of the
premises in favor of C.W. The respondent returned to the
courtroom and requested that the court set aside the default
judgment. The judge told the respondent that he would have to
file a written motion to set aside the default judgment and
Even though the respondent knew prior to the time of the
hearing that his license to practice law had been suspended,
the respondent did not inform opposing counsel, the court, or
The writ for possession of the premises was served on the
respondent's clients. The writ directed the
respondent's clients to vacate the premises prior to
October 20, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. The order provided that the
sheriff's office would remove them at that time if they
had not vacated the premises.
On October 15, 2015, the day after the respondent had actual
knowledge of the suspension, the respondent entered his
appearance on behalf of V.S., in Johnson County District
Court, case number 15CV6206. The respondent sought and
obtained a continuance of a hearing that was set for that
day. The respondent failed to inform the court, opposing
counsel, or his client that his license to practice law had
At the time of the suspension, the respondent represented
B.M., a respondent in a domestic case filed in Leavenworth
County District Court, case number 2015-DM-356. Lawrence
Henderson represented the opposing party. Previously, a
status conference had been scheduled for October 15, 2015.
The respondent and Mr. Henderson agreed to continue the
status conference to October 28, 2015.
On October 17, 2015, at 9:23 a.m., the respondent signed the
certified mail receipt for the suspension order. According to
the respondent, the respondent wrote a check in the amount of
$100 payable to the Clerk of the Appellate Courts. The Clerk
of the Appellate Courts did not receive a check from the
respondent dated October 17, 2015.
On October 17, 2015, the respondent served a motion to set
aside order for immediate possession and a memorandum in
support of motion to set aside order for immediate possession
in the eviction action filed against G.M., E.M., and El.M. on
C.W. On October 19, 2015, the respondent filed those
pleadings in court. Later that same day, the respondent
sought and obtained an ex parte temporary order
setting aside the writ of immediate possession. At the time
he served and filed the pleadings and sought the ex
parte order, the respondent did not inform his clients,
opposing counsel, or the court that his license had been
Prior to the suspension of the respondent's license to
practice of law, the respondent represented R.G. in a
domestic case pending in Leavenworth County District Court,
case number 2014-DM-904. Pamela Burton represented the
opposing party in that case. On October 17, 2015, the
respondent served discovery responses in R.G.'s case on
Ms. Burton. The respondent filed pleadings in that case on
October 19, 2015. The respondent did not inform his clients,
opposing counsel, or the court that his license to practice
law had been suspended.
On October 19, 2015, the respondent met with G.M., E.M.,
El.M., and a deputy with the Leavenworth County sheriff's
office about the October 20, 2015, deadline in the writ.
Again, the respondent did not inform his clients that his
license to practice law had been suspended.
Previously, the court scheduled a hearing in the protection
from stalking cases for October 19, 2015. Prior to the
hearing, Mr. Hall saw the respondent at the courthouse.
Later, Mr. Hall memorialized the exchange as follows:
'This morning at approximately 10:45 am I went through
security at the Justice Center on my way to the PFS hearing
concerning the [C.W. and G.M.] PFS case. Mr. Holmes was
sitting on the bench just east of the security entrance.
After I passed through security I went over to Mr. Holmes to
see if he was going to represent [G.M.] in the PFS case. He
indicated he was going to represent her and had told her to
ask for a continuance since he was waiting for a ride from
his wife, due to his car having broken down.
'He launched into speaking about the eviction case where
you are representing [C.W.]. He said he had filed a motion to
set aside the writ that was issued and had already spoken
with Judge Gibbons [sic] as well as the
sheriff's office. I asked him for a copy of the motion
that he filed and told him that you had not received it. He
said he "sent it up" and did not have a copy. I
handed him a copy of the Order For Immediate Possession that
you gave me to give to him. I told him you had tried to fax
it, but without success; he said you had to call first, then
indicate (I think to his secretary) that you wanted to send a
fax, then fax it. He acknowledged having received it by email
'He suggested that the PFS cases should be continued
until his client could get moved out. I told him that was a
good idea and we agreed on November 16, 2015 for the new date
in the PFS cases. I told him I would convey that to Judge
Dawson and I did so about 15 minutes later. He indicated that
his client had tried to rent another place, but had been
declined because on (sic) the pending eviction case. . . . We
agreed it would facilitate resolution for his client to get
moved out-the sooner, the better-and that, hopefully, we
could then resolve the PFS cases by agreement.'
When Mr. Hall appeared before Judge Dawson to seek and obtain
a new hearing date in the two protection from stalking cases,
Mr. Hall referenced the agreement with the respondent. The
respondent, however, did not appear in court. The respondent
did not inform his clients, Mr. Hall, or the court that the
respondent's license had been suspended.
On October 19, 2015, the court entered orders continuing the
protection from stalking cases to November. In the orders,
the respondent is listed as G.M.'s counsel.
During the afternoon hours of October 19, 2015, Ms. Hall
emailed the respondent to set a date for a hearing in the
eviction action. In the email, Ms. Hall proposed several
dates, including October 23, 2015. The respondent called Ms.
Hall and agreed to an expedited hearing on October 23, 2015,
at 11:00 a.m. The respondent did not tell Ms. Hall that his
license was suspended.
At the time his license was suspended to practice law, the
respondent represented G.B. in an appeal from a municipal
court conviction, Leavenworth County District Court case
number 2015-CR-573. Previously, the court had scheduled a
trial for October 20, 2015. On October 20, 2015, the
respondent sought and obtained opposing counsel's consent
and continued the trial to November, 2015. The respondent did
not inform opposing counsel, the court, or his client that
his license to practice law was suspended.
On October 22, 2015, the respondent wrote a check in the
amount of $100 payable to the Clerk of the Appellate Courts.
The respondent delivered the check to the Clerk of the
On October 22, 2015, the respondent called Ms. Hall and left
a message asking Ms. Hall to call him regarding the eviction
case. Ms. Hall replied to the message by email that same day
asking the respondent to draft an agreement.
On October 23, 2015, the Leavenworth County District Court
Administrator informed Judge Michael D. Gibbens that the
respondent's license to practice law was suspended. The
hearing in the eviction action was scheduled to be heard in
Judge Gibbens' court at 11:00 a.m. that day.
Ms. Hall had several hearings before Judge Gibbens on October
23, 2015, prior to the 11:00 a.m. setting. Before the 11:00
a.m. hearing, Judge Gibbens informed Ms. Hall the
respondent's license to practice law was suspended.
The respondent arrived for the hearing shortly before 11:00
a.m. And entered the courtroom. The respondent approached Ms.
Hall and asked her to come to speak with him in the hallway.
In the hallway, the respondent told Ms. Hall that his license
to practice law was suspended. The respondent told Ms. Hall
that he had just learned of the suspension a day or so prior
and was reluctant to leave a phone message to that effect.
The respondent asked Ms. Hall to cancel the 11:00 a.m.
hearing and to agree to allow his clients until the following
Monday to vacate the premises. The respondent's clients
were not present.
Ms. Hall informed her client of the respondent's offer.
Her client declined the offer. Shortly after 11:00 a.m., on
October 23, 2015, Judge Gibbens entered the courtroom. The
respondent was in front of the bar at counsel table when the
following exchange occurred:
'JUDGE GIBBENS: Be seated. All right, Mr. Holmes, before
I call this case, the Court's been advised that you were
administratively suspended from the practice of law effective
October the 6th.
'MR. HOLMES: Right. I became aware of that in the last
'JUDGE GIBBENS: Okay. Have you been reinstated yet?
'MR. HOLMES: I've done everything I can. I've
actually been advised it's been processed and it should
be effective Monday.
'JUDGE GIBBENS: Okay. Well, you can't appear here
'MR. HOLMES: I understand. I've been advised by the
Disciplinary Administrator the thing I need to do is to show
up and let the Court know that, let opposing counsel know
that. I would have let my client know that but I can't
get ahold of them and they're not present.
'JUDGE GIBBENS: All right.
'MR. HOLMES: But I will be doing that. And I have
discussed the matter with Ms. Hall.
'JUDGE GIBBENS: All right. You may withdraw then. Thank
'MR. HOLMES: Thank you.'
"41. After the respondent left the courtroom, the court
entered a default order for immediate possession and issued a
writ against the respondent's clients to vacate the
"42. Later that day, October 23, 2015, the respondent
came to Ms. Hall's office to deliver a client file to Mr.
Hall in an unrelated case. Ms. Hall came to the reception
desk and took the file from the respondent. The respondent
began to discuss the eviction action with Ms. Hall. Because
the respondent was not licensed to practice law, Ms. Hall
told the respondent that he needed to leave.
On October 23, 2015, the respondent sent a letter to the
disciplinary administrator, self-reporting his conduct. The
respondent's letter provided:
'Please be advised that in the hopes of compliance with
the rules of professional conduct, I am providing notice of a
handful of matters in which I appeared in Court to represent
clients which occurred apparently after the entry of
an order regarding but prior to my notification of
an administrative suspension.
'Pursuant to the Supreme Court Rules regarding annual
registration, I mailed my Attorney Registration documents and
fees on the 29th day of July, 2015. I had anticipated they
would be received on or before the 31st day of July, 2015, in
time to renew my registration before being deemed late.
However, a few weeks later, I received a notice by
certified mail that my registration renewal documents were
not processed until Monday, August 3rd, 2015, and were
therefore deemed late.
'I thereafter attempted to contact the registration
office to object and/or to request a further explanation for
the late fee. I cannot recall the precise date of the call
but believe it was in late August. In any event, I had hoped
to avoid having to send the late fee if I could receive a
better explanation for the delay and possibly have the
determination reversed. I did not receive a follow-up
response from the registration office, and admittedly I
waited to follow up on the issue until thirty (30) days had
'Nevertheless, I again called and poke [sic]
with the registration clerk about the same issue, I believe
on October 14th, and was advised the registration office
could provide me no precise explanation for the processing
delay but that it was possible the registration renewal
documents were either received late, or they had been
received on time but were left in the lock box until they
could be processed after the weekend of August 1st and 2nd,
2015. I was then informed that I would be contacted by an
individual who could better explain or resolve the matter the
following day; however, as of this date I have received no
'Although I was aware that it had been more than
thirty (30) days since I had been notified of the late fee
issue, I ultimately prepared and mailed the late fee payment
with the additional form to the registration office the same
day. I had hoped that despite the delay, I might be
able to avoid an administrative suspension. In over twenty
(20) years of practice, I have never incurred this issue and
so I was uncertain as to how the entire process worked.
'Unfortunately, I received notice of the suspension a few
days later on October 17th, 2015. After reviewing the
information, I immediately prepared and sent the
reinstatement fee. I also sent the Continuing Legal Education
reinstatement fee. I only learned after sending the
reinstatement fee, that it had been received by the
registration office but that they had not received the late
fee I had mailed days earlier. Accordingly, I immediately
wrote and delivered another check for the late fee.
Accordingly, I have undertaken all action to reinstate my
license, which by this time may already be reinstated or, as
I have been advised, should be reinstated imminently.
However, as of the current date, I still have no knowledge as
to whether the late fee sent nearly a week and a half ago was
ever received, which further concerns me given the original
delay in having the initial renewal fee payment processed.
'In any event, to my knowledge, there are no other
impediments to my license other than the late payment fee
issue, and the delay was largely occasioned as a result of
the fact that I did not believe I [sic] payment
would be received late in the first place, and my admitted
stubbornness over the issue.
'I understand that an administrative suspension order was
issued on October 5th or 6th, 2015; however, it was only
after I received the notice of suspension that I became aware
it had actually been issued. As such, after the order was
issued but prior to my notice thereof I admittedly appeared
in state court to represent clients on a handful of
occasions. The first occasion was October 6th, 2015, in
Leavenworth County, . . . The matter concerned a Motion to
Determine Child Support Arrearages which I had filed some
months earlier. The hearing merely consisted of notification
to the Court that the parties had reached a previously
negotiated agreement. The second hearing was on October 7 in
two related child in need of care cases also in Leavenworth
County. My client did not appear, and the matters were
essentially continued until the month of November. The third
matter was another child in need of care case held in Johnson
County on October 8th, 2015, where I merely appeared and
indicated my intention to withdraw and was excused by the
Court. The fourth hearing . . . was held on October 15th and
considered a temporary protection order which had been
initially filed on a Pro Se basis . . . who asked
that I appear on her behalf at the hearing. [She] had also
filed a Motion to Modify Custody in a companion domestic case
which she also wished me to handle but which was not
scheduled at that time. The hearing was continued and the
Judge expressed his intention to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem
to represent the interests of the children for whom the
temporary protection order had been issued. The final hearing
involved the sentencing . . . on October 16th, in Olathe
Municipal Court. The sentencing was based upon a plea and
sentencing agreement which had been negotiated earlier.
'I would not have appeared in any of these hearings had I
actually been aware of the administrative suspension, and
I have not appeared in any further hearings since
[having] been notified of the administrative
suspension. In addition, there have been no formal
disciplinary proceedings filed in the State of Kansas against
me at any time and to my knowledge there are no matters
'Should you have any questions regarding this matter
please fee [sic] free to contact me.'
The respondent included false information in his October 23,
2015, letter to the disciplinary administrator. See
On October 26 or 27, 2015, the respondent called Mr.
Henderson and asked if he would agree to continue the October
28, 2015, hearing scheduled in G.M.'s case. The
respondent explained that he needed the continuance because
his daughter was getting married in Idaho on October 28,
2015. The respondent did not disclose that his license to
practice law was suspended. However, Mr. Henderson had
previously learned that the respondent's license was
suspended. Mr. Henderson did not agree to the continuance,
because he was concerned that by agreeing to the continuance
he would be aiding the respondent in the unauthorized
practice of law.
On October 27, 2015, Kate Baird, deputy disciplinary
administrator, responded to the respondent's letter
self-reporting the misconduct. In the letter, Ms. Baird
believing that the respondent has not practiced law after
learning of the suspension order, told the respondent that
she would hold the matter and asked the respondent to provide
her with written notification when his license was
On October 28, 2015, [the] Supreme Court issued an order
reinstating the respondent's license to practice law in
On November 6, 2015, the respondent notified the disciplinary
administrator that his license had been reinstated. In that
letter, the respondent disclosed additional misconduct, as
you for your letter dated October 27th, 2015. Per your
request, I am advising that I received the reinstatement
order and was reinstated to practice on October 28th and have
'I should also advise in connection with my prior letter
that I had also prepared and filed a few pleadings after the
October 6th, 2015, period of suspension. As you may
recall, I did not receive any notice thereof until late
afternoon of [the] 17th of October.
'In a Johnson County divorce case No. 15-CV-6299 I
entered an appearance and submitted an Answer to a Petition
and a Motion to Set-Aside Temporary Orders on or about
October 14th; however, this was prior to my receipt of the
notice of suspension and upon my subsequent notification of
the suspension, I appeared in person at a previously
scheduled hearing the following week and advised the Court
and counsel as well as my client of the suspension.
The hearing was then continued for a few weeks.
'I also prepared and filed a Motion to Set-Aside
[sic] a Default Judgment in a Leavenworth County
wrongful detainer case No. 2015-LM-952. The Motion was also
prepared and signed prior to the time I received my notice,
but it was received by the Court Clerk and filed the
following Monday and thereafter scheduled by the Court for an
expedited hearing to take place on the 23rd of October.
Nevertheless, on that date I appeared in Court just
prior to the time scheduled for the hearing and notified the
Court and Counsel of my administrative suspension. I
had been unable to reach my clients prior to that time who, I
later learned, were actually in the process of relocating
from the residence which was the subject of the action and
could not be reached by telephone. Nevertheless, the matter
proceeded to a second default after I was excused from the
Courtroom by the Court.
'In addition, I received answers from my client by e-mail
to a series of discovery requests in Leavenworth Case No.
2014-DM-904. I prepared a formal discovery response which was
e-mailed to opposing counsel on October 9th. The discovery
answers were later signed by me and verified by my client
also prior to my receiving notice of the suspension, but they
were deposited in the mail, together with several items of
personal mail, the day after I had received notice. I have no
excuse for having these items mailed out after I had received
notice other than the fact that they had been prepared and
included a couple of days earlier together with a large stack
of personal mail all of which was sent out at the same time.
This was an oversight on my part and was not intentional as
it would have been just as easy to have waited to send the
discovery answers out until the following week after I
received the reinstatement.
'In a criminal case, Leavenworth County Case No.
15-CR-573, a court trial had been scheduled several weeks
earlier to take place on the 21st of October. I was unable to
contact the Judge to notify him of my administrative
suspension; however, with the consent of opposing counsel the
matter was continued prior to the day of the trial and
rescheduled for [the] 17th day of December.
'I submitted no other pleadings of which I am aware, nor
did I appear at any other hearings about which I have not
previously advised your office. I can say, if there were any
such additional matters to speak of, I can represent that
none of them ...