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In re Mathews

Supreme Court of Kansas

September 27, 2019

In the Matter of Joshua T. Mathews, Respondent.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE

          Matthew J. Vogelsberg, Deputy Disciplinary Administrator, argued the cause, and Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary Administrator, was with him on the formal complaint for the petitioner.

          Joshua T. Mathews, respondent, argued the cause pro se.

          PER CURIAM

         This is an attorney discipline proceeding against Joshua T. Mathews, of Leawood, Kansas. Respondent was admitted to practice law in the state of Kansas on April 25, 2008.

         On December 27, 2018, the Disciplinary Administrator's office filed a formal complaint against respondent alleging violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct (KRPC). Respondent filed an untimely answer to the formal complaint on January 31, 2019. The parties entered into a written stipulation on February 19, 2019, two days prior to the scheduled hearing on the formal complaint.

         A panel of the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys held a hearing on February 21, 2019. Respondent appeared pro se. The hearing panel determined respondent violated KRPC 8.4(c) (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 387) (conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation), 8.4(g) (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 387) (conduct adversely reflecting on lawyer's fitness to practice law), and Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 257) (failure to file answer in disciplinary proceeding).

         Upon conclusion of the hearing, the panel made findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a disciplinary recommendation. Respondent took no exceptions to the hearing panel's report but reserved the right to argue about the appropriate discipline.

         Before this court, the Disciplinary Administrator's office endorses the panel's findings and recommends respondent receive a censure and that the censure be published in the Kansas Reports. Respondent recommends he be informally admonished for his rules violations. We quote the report's pertinent parts below.

"Findings of Fact
. . . .
"8. Attorneys registered as active are required to earn a minimum of 12 continuing legal education (CLE) credit hours during each compliance period, ending June 30 each year, including two hours of ethics credit. Kan. S.Ct. R. 803(a). One hour of CLE credit is awarded for every '50 minutes actually spent in attendance at instructional activities, exclusive of introductory remarks, meals, breaks, or other noneducational activities.' Kan. S.Ct. R. 804(g)(1). Active attorneys are limited to earning eight hours of CLE credit in one day. Kan. S.Ct. R. 806(b).
"9. The respondent failed to satisfy the CLE requirements for the compliance period ending June 30, 2017.
"10. On September 8, 2017, the respondent attended an in-person video replay CLE program in Blue Springs, Missouri, sponsored by the Missouri Bar Association. The respondent attended 400 minutes of instruction, spanning 8:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The respondent did not attend the ethics program offered that day.
"11. On September 8, 2017, while attending the in-person video replay CLE program, the respondent also viewed online on-demand CLE programs offered by Lawline. The respondent completed five online on-demand CLE programs offered by Lawline at 12:35 p.m., 2:10 p.m., 4:06 p.m., 5:23 p.m., and 10:53 p.m. For the Missouri bar, the respondent certified that he 'listened/viewed the program in a setting suitable to the course and a suitable writing surface was available.' Just below the respondent's signatures, the five certificates included statements that a 'materially false statement shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.'
"12. The respondent forwarded information to the Kansas CLE Commission claiming that he attended 400 minutes of CLE for eight hours of CLE credit, including zero hours of ethics credit, for attending the in-person video replay CLE program. The respondent also forwarded information to the Kansas CLE Commission claiming 360 minutes of CLE credit, including 120 minutes of ethics credit for viewing the online on-demand CLE programs offered by Lawline. The Kansas CLE Commission received the information from the respondent on September 11, 2017.
"13. On September 15, 2017, the respondent completed the certificate of attendance regarding the September 8, 2017, in-person video replay CLE program, claiming eight hours of Kansas CLE credit, including one hour of ethics credit. Just above the respondent's signature, the certificate of attendance states that '[c]laiming hours for segments not actually attended could be a violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct.' On September 18, 2017, the Kansas CLE Commission received the certificate. At the hearing on this matter, the respondent testified that his claim of the one hour of ethics credit was inadvertent and inaccurate. He acknowledged that he did not attend the ethics hour offered at the in-person video replay CLE program.
"14. After learning that the respondent was claiming more than eight hours of CLE credit for one day, Shelley Sutton, Executive Director of the Kansas CLE Commission called the respondent. Ms. Sutton asked the respondent whether he viewed the online courses while in attendance at the in-person video replay CLE program. The respondent falsely denied doing so. The respondent claimed that during the in-person video replay CLE program, the respondent merely logged into the Lawline website to print out the certificates of attendance. Ms. Sutton asked the respondent to contact Lawline and request the 'backlog' which would show the respondent's login and logoff times and polling verification.
"15. About an hour later, the respondent called Ms. Sutton and admitted to her that he had watched the online programs while in attendance at the in-person video replay program. Ms. Sutton recommended that the respondent self-report his conduct to the disciplinary administrator's office. Ms. Sutton informed the respondent that he would not receive credit for any of the programming he attended on September 8, 2017.
"16. On September 22, 2017, the respondent self-reported his conduct. In his letter, the respondent stated:
'I received a call today from Shelley Sutton of the Kansas CLE Commission, asking me about the CLE hours I had turned in for the 2016-2017 compliance period. I was late with my hours, and due to last minute cancellation of a CLE that I had signed up for, I was attempting to get everything wound up at the last minute before suspension letters went out.
'On Friday, September 8, 2017 I attended a Missouri Video Replay CLE session, attending eight hours of programming. During the session, I also viewed online CLE programs available from Lawline. I really didn't consider that it might be an ethics violation at the time, or violate the rules regarding Continuing Legal Education. That said, it should have occurred to me, or I should have researched it more before doing so. It also makes sense that the Rules would prohibit this behavior, as I'm ...

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