In the Matter of Joan M. Hawkins, Respondent.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE
Stanton A. Hazlett, Disciplinary Administrator, argued the
cause, and Kimberly L. Knoll, Deputy Disciplinary
Administrator, was with him on the formal complaint for the
appearance by respondent.
an uncontested original proceeding in discipline filed by the
office of the Disciplinary Administrator against respondent,
Joan M. Hawkins, of Lawrence, an attorney admitted to the
practice of law in Kansas in 1999.
August 30, 2018, the office of the Disciplinary Administrator
filed a formal complaint against respondent alleging
violations of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct
(KRPC). Respondent did not file an answer. A hearing was held
on the complaint before a panel of the Kansas Board for
Discipline of Attorneys on October 2, 2018, at which the
respondent did not appear in person or by counsel. The
hearing panel determined that respondent violated KRPC 1.3
(2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 298) (diligence); 1.15(a) and (b) (2019
Kan. S.Ct. R. 334) (safekeeping property); 1.16(d) (2019 Kan.
S.Ct. R. 339) (termination of representation); 8.1(b) (2019
Kan. S.Ct. R. 384) (failure to respond to disciplinary
authority); Kansas Supreme Court Rule 207(b) (2019 Kan. S.Ct.
R. 252) (failure to cooperate in disciplinary investigation);
Kansas Supreme Court Rule 211(b) (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 257)
(failure to file answer in disciplinary proceeding); and
Kansas Supreme Court Rule 218(a) (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 268)
(failure to file motion to withdraw upon suspension).
conclusion of the hearing, the panel made the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law, together with its
recommendation to this court:
"6. On September 24, 1999, the Kansas Supreme Court
admitted the respondent to the practice of law in the State
of Kansas. On April 15, 2016, the Court suspended the
respondent's license to practice law for a period of 18
months for having violated KRPC 1.16 (termination of
representation), KRPC 3.2 (expedite litigation), KRPC 3.3
(candor to the tribunal), KRPC 3.4 (fairness to opposing
party), KRPC 8.1 (cooperation), and KRPC 8.4 (professional
misconduct). The respondent has not sought reinstatement of
her license to practice law.
"7. L.M. entered pleas of guilty to two serious
felonies. Thereafter, the court sentenced L.M. to life
imprisonment. Later, L.M.'s family retained an attorney
to file a motion to set aside the guilty pleas.
"8. Subsequently, the respondent entered her appearance
on behalf of L.M. and filed an amended motion to withdraw
plea. The court scheduled a three-day hearing on the
respondent's motion for August 31, 2015, through
September 2, 2015. The respondent represented L.M. at the
hearing. Following the hearing, the court set a briefing
schedule. The court directed the respondent to file a brief
on behalf of L.M. not later than 28 days after the completion
of the transcript. The district court provided the state with
28 days to respond and the respondent 14 days to reply.
"9. On October 19, 2015, the court reporter certified
the completion of the transcript and a copy of the transcript
was delivered to the respondent, making the respondent's
brief due on November 16, 2015. The respondent failed to file
a brief on behalf of L.M. as ordered by the court.
Additionally, the respondent failed to take any additional
action on behalf of L.M.
"10. On April 15, 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court
suspended the respondent's license to practice law for a
period of 18 months. In its opinion, the Court ordered the
respondent to comply with Kan. S.Ct. R. 218. Kan. S.Ct. R.
218 requires suspended attorneys to notify clients, opposing
counsel, and courts of record, within 14 days, that the
attorney's license has been suspended. Kan. S.Ct. R. 218
also requires suspended attorneys to move to withdraw from
all pending cases.
"11. In a letter dated April 29, 2016, the respondent
notified L.M. that the respondent's license to practice
law had been suspended. The respondent, however, did not
notify J.K., L.M.'s sister who held a power of attorney
for L.M. The respondent failed to file a motion to withdraw
from L.M.'s case.
"12. Because the respondent failed to file a brief on
behalf of L.M. And complete the representation, J.K. filed a
complaint with the disciplinary administrator's office.
Members of the disciplinary administrator's office
directed the respondent to provide a written response to the
complaint. The respondent . . . did not provide a written
response to the complaint filed by J.K.
"13. Terry Morgan, special investigator with the
disciplinary administrator's office was assigned to
investigate the complaint. Mr. Morgan also directed the
respondent to provide a written response to the complaint.
The respondent failed to do so.
"14. During the investigation, the respondent left a
voicemail message for Mr. Morgan, indicating that an attorney
from Joseph & Hollander would be representing her. When
Mr. Morgan contacted Joseph & Hollander, Mr. Morgan
learned that the firm would not be representing the
"15. The respondent failed to cooperate in the
"16. The respondent represented C.U. in a divorce
proceeding against R.U. The district court entered the decree
of divorce on May 15, 2014. A term of the property settlement
agreement required R.U. to pay C.U. $32, 172.50, to equalize
the joint assets. In addition, the parties jointly held
Horizon stock. Because the stock remained unsold at the time
the district court entered the decree, the district court
specifically retained jurisdiction over issues relating to
"17. On December 3, 2014, the district court entered a
nunc pro tunc Journal Entry, correcting a
mathematical error which changed the equalization amount R.U.
was to pay C.U. to $32, 308.00. That same day, R.U. paid C.U.
the required equalization amount.
"18. Even though R.U. had already paid the equalization
amount, on December 23, 2014, the respondent filed a motion
to enforce the terms of the property settlement agreement,
seeking to force R.U. to pay C.U. the equalization amount.
"19. In January, 2015, counsel for Horizon notified the
parties that Horizon wished to offer stock redemption to R.U.
and C.U. Counsel for Horizon requested that C.U. sign a
disclaimer of the interest so that the stock could be
redeemed. The respondent and C.U. refused to sign the
disclaimer because the parties disagreed as to who should
bear the tax liability on the redemption.
"20. Without accomplishing the stock redemption, the
respondent stopped communicating with counsel for Horizon.
"21. In August, 2015, R.U. listed her real property for
sale. A month later, on September 17, 2015, the respondent
filed a lien against R.U.'s real property for the
equalization payment for an 'uncertain' amount, even
though the equalization amount was certain and had already
been paid. The respondent failed to notify R.U. or her
counsel of the lien.
"22. Without knowing of the lien, R.U. entered a
contract for the sale of her real property and scheduled
closing for April 7, 2016. One week prior to closing, the
title company discovered the lien the respondent filed
against R.U.'s real property. The improper lien filed by
the respondent frustrated the progress of the sale of the
"23. On April 6, 2016, the respondent informed the title
company that the amount of the lien was 'roughly $4,
700.' The title company agreed to hold $4, 700 in escrow.
However, R.U. had already paid the entire amount owed to C.U.
"24. On April 15, 2016, the same day the Supreme Court
issued its opinion suspending the respondent's license to
practice law, the respondent sent an email message to counsel
for R.U. requesting to settle the Horizon stock matter prior
to the hearing, scheduled for June 29, 2016.
"25. On May 26, 2016, R.U. filed a complaint against the
respondent. The disciplinary administrator directed the
respondent to provide a written response to the complaint.
The respondent failed to do so. The respondent failed [to]
cooperate in the investigation of R.U.'s complaint.
"26. At the time the Supreme Court suspended the
respondent's license to practice law in April 2015, the
respondent's attorney trust account balance was $37,
846.66. After her license to practice law was suspended, the
respondent made the following deposits into her attorney
April 18, 2016
April 19, 2016
April 21, 2016
June 1, 2016
June 21, 2016
September 1, 2016
"27. The respondent used her attorney trust account for
purposes in addition to holding client monies.
a. On April 11, 2016, four days before the Kansas Supreme
Court suspended the respondent's license to practice law,
the respondent transferred funds from her retirement account
in the amount of $18, 400 from American Funds to her attorney
trust account. That same day, the respondent wired $17, 100
to the firm representing the respondent in the original
disciplinary action, Joseph & Hollander and she returned
$1, 300 to the American Funds retirement account.
b. On April 13, 2016, April 20, 2016, and September 27, 2016,
the respondent paid a credit card bill directly from her
attorney trust account.
"28. The respondent's attorney trust account records
indicate that she returned unearned fees to her clients
beginning April 19, 2016, and continuing ...