Saturday, February 04, 2017

Lawyer Earns Bar Boot Over Misappropriated Client Funds, Failure To Maintain Trust Account, Failure To Provide Accounting For Services Provided, Refusal To Refund Unearned Fees, Referring To Retainer Fees As "Non-Refundable", Etc.; One Victim Credits Publicity From Local Media Consumer Troubleshooter For Initiating Probe

In Fargo, North Dakota, Valley News Live reports:
  • An investigation that Valley News Live has been following for nearly two years closed a chapter today [January 18].

    After a number of complaints brought to Valley News Live on our Whistleblower Hotline regarding attorney, Jesse Matson, the Minnesota Supreme Court disbars the attorney effective immediately.

    The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility in St. Paul, Minnesota, filed a petition for disciplinary action against Matson.

    The Minnesota Supreme Court says that Jesse Matson’s misconduct happened over the course of three years.

    Seven Minnesota clients(1) and three North Dakota clients(2) stepped forward to complain to the Supreme Court.

    Three of those clients, called us on our Whistleblower Hotline. We spoke with them because they said Matson scammed them out of thousands of dollars.

    The State of Minnesota in Supreme Court document says, "Disbarment 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,(3) failed to cooperate with the investigation of several disciplinary complaints, and was suspended by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Disbarred."

    Matson also failed to cooperate in six disciplinary investigations.

    On August 31st, 2015, the North Dakota Supreme Court suspended Matson for 6 months and 1 day.

    Typically, North Dakota and Minnesota will react with reciprocal action. And we're told that North Dakota will be going through the reciprocal discipline procedure.

    As for Matson, his brief describes his struggles with his mental health, suffering from severe depression and PTSD. Claiming that caused him to lose the ability to function utterly and completely.

    We tried reaching out to Matson on the news of his disbarment, but the numbers previously given were not in service anymore.

    One of Matson's clients, Scott Heggestuen, says he is thankful for KVLY's help.

    "If it wasn't for you guys, you're the only ones that took it serious when I called all these other places. Nobody would listen, but Valley News Live did," Heggestuen says.
For the story, see After Valley News Live investigated allegations against Jesse Matson, Minnesota Supreme Court disbars attorney.

For the disbarment order, see In re Matson, A16-0137 (Minn. January 18, 2017).
(1) The Minnesota Client Security Fund was established by the Minnesota Supreme Court to aid those persons who suffer a loss because of dishonest conduct on the part of a lawyer during the course of an attorney-client relationship in this state. The fund may reimburse up to $150,000 for dishonest conduct committed by a Minnesota lawyer.

(2) The Client Security Fund of the State Bar Association of North Dakota was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to dishonest conduct of a member of the North Dakota Bar committed in the course of an attorney-client relationship, or other fiduciary capacity between the lawyer and claimant. Go here for Claim Form.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

(3) The nature of some of the misconduct, according to the disbarment order:
  • failure to maintain a client trust account;
  • acceptance of retainer fees from clients and failing to deposit those fees into a trust account;
  • failure to provide an accounting of any legal services provided and application of the retainer fees to those services, and failure to refund any unearned fees;
  • the improper fee agreements involved one oral contingent fee agreement not reduced to writing, and two written agreements that improperly referred to the retainer fees paid by clients as "non-refundable".

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