In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Jesse David Matson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0389131.
Jurisdiction Office of Appellate Courts
M. Humiston, Director, Joshua H. Brand, Senior Assistant
Director, Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility,
Saint Paul, Minnesota, for petitioner.
D. Matson, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, pro se.
is the appropriate discipline for an attorney who
misappropriated client funds, made false statements to
clients, fabricated a document, neglected and abandoned
numerous clients, failed to abide by court rules, filed a
frivolous motion, failed to place client funds in trust,
failed to return unearned fees, used improper fee agreements,
failed to cooperate with the investigation of several
disciplinary complaints, and was suspended by the North
Dakota Supreme Court.
Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
(Director) filed a petition for disciplinary action seeking
reciprocal discipline and a supplementary petition for
disciplinary action against respondent Jesse David Matson.
The Director alleged that Matson committed financial
misconduct by misappropriating client funds, failing to place
client funds in trust, failing to return unearned fees, and
using improper fee agreements. The Director further alleged
that Matson committed dishonest conduct by making false
statements to clients and fabricating a document. The other
alleged misconduct in the petitions included neglecting and
abandoning numerous client matters, failing to communicate
with numerous clients, failing to abide by court rules,
filing a frivolous motion, failing to cooperate with the
investigation of several disciplinary complaints, and being
placed on suspension by the North Dakota Supreme Court. We
deemed the allegations admitted after Matson did not respond
to either petition. The sole issue before us is the
appropriate discipline. We conclude that it is disbarment.
was admitted to practice law in Minnesota on October 31,
2008, and in North Dakota on October 10, 2011. On August 31,
2015, the North Dakota Supreme Court suspended Matson for 6
months and 1 day. In re Matson, 869 N.W.2d 128, 129
(N.D. 2015). The Director filed a petition for disciplinary
action seeking reciprocal discipline. See Rule
12(d), Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility (RLPR)
(authorizing the Director to file a petition for discipline
upon learning "that a lawyer licensed in Minnesota has
been publicly disciplined . . . in another
jurisdiction"). After receiving and investigating
additional client complaints against Matson, the Director
filed a supplementary petition for disciplinary action.
Matson did not serve or file an answer to either the petition
or the supplementary petition. We therefore deemed the
allegations of the petition and supplementary petition
admitted. See Rule 13(b), RLPR (stating that if the
respondent fails to file an answer, "the
allegations" in the disciplinary petition "shall be
deemed admitted"); see also Rule 12(d), RLPR
(stating that a final adjudication by another jurisdiction
that a lawyer has committed misconduct "shall establish
conclusively the misconduct for purposes of disciplinary
proceedings in Minnesota"). We also invited the parties
to submit written proposals on the appropriate discipline.
The Director recommended disbarment, while Matson argued for
a suspension and placement on disability inactive
misconduct, occurring between 2013 and 2015, covered seven
Minnesota client matters and three North Dakota client
matters. We summarize the primary instances of misconduct
respect to the Minnesota misconduct, Matson misappropriated
client funds, in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(c)
and 8.4(d), from his client C.B. C.B. provided Matson with a
check for $550 to file a petition for review with our court.
Matson submitted the petition to the Clerk of the Appellate
Courts on July 21, 2015. But because the petition failed to
comply with applicable rules, the clerk rejected the petition
and returned it to Matson, along with the $550 filing fee.
Matson did not refund the $550 to C.B. or make further
attempts to file the petition in compliance with the rules.
Failure to Safekeep Property and Improper Fee
failed to keep his clients' property safe and failed to
return unearned fees and client files, in violation of Minn.
R. Prof. Conduct 1.15(a), 1.15(c)(3), 1.15(c)(4), and
1.16(d). From 2013 to 2015, Matson did not maintain either a
North Dakota or Minnesota IOLTA account. He did not put funds
he received from four clients (C.B., K.W., L.I., and T.K.)
into a trust account. Matson also failed to provide four
clients (C.B., K.W., L.I., and B.F.) with billing statements
or invoices accounting for his use of their funds, and, after
accepting a total of $9, 000 in retainer fees from three
clients (K.W., L.I., and T.K.), he did not return any
unearned fees to those clients. Finally, Matson failed to
return client files to each of his seven Minnesota clients
(C.B., M.W., K.W., L.I., B.F., T.K., and R.O.), even after
they requested that he do so.
Matson entered into improper fee agreements with three of his
clients, in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 1.5(b)(3) and
1.5(c). Matson entered into an oral contingent fee agreement
with M.W. in October 2013. His fee agreements with K.W. and
L.I. improperly referred to their retainers as
engaged in dishonesty in the course of his representation of
three clients, in violation of Minn. R. Prof. Conduct 4.1 and
8.4(c). When C.B. repeatedly requested that Matson send the
district court paperwork to clarify a May 2015 order, Matson
told C.B. that he had already done so. Matson provided C.B.
with a copy of a letter dated July 12, 2015, that he
purportedly sent to the court and to the counsel for
C.B.'s ex-husband. Matson, however, fabricated the letter
and falsely told C.B. that he had sent the letter to the
court and opposing counsel.
addition, Matson falsely told two other clients that he had
scheduled hearings when he had not actually done so. In
August and September 2015, Matson told K.W. that he had
scheduled hearings by conference call in her matter. But K.W.
telephoned the court and was informed that Matson had not
filed any papers and no hearing had been scheduled.
Similarly, in late February or early March 2014, Matson told
B.F. that he had scheduled a hearing to clarify a district
court order finding B.F.'s ...