review of the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance
grievance commission found the respondent committed multiple
ethical violations and recommends a three-month license
suspension. LICENSE REVOKED.
M. van Brederode, Des Moines, and Andrew J. Boettger of
Hastings, Gartin & Boettger, Ames, for complainant.
L. Brown and Tyler R. Smith of Hansen, McClintock &
Riley, Des Moines, for respondent.
Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board (Board) filed
a complaint against an attorney alleging multiple violations
of our ethical rules including the misappropriation of funds
in his representation of three clients. The Board also
alleged the attorney violated ethical rules arising from his
conviction for domestic abuse assault. The Iowa Supreme Court
Grievance Commission (commission) found eight violations of
our ethical rules and recommended a three-month suspension.
For the reasons outlined below, we revoke the attorney's
license to practice law in the state of Iowa.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Luke Guthrie has been licensed to practice law in the state
of Iowa since 2006. At the time of the conduct giving rise to
this disciplinary action, Guthrie was practicing law at
Roberts, Stevens, Prendergast, and Guthrie, PLLC, in
Waterloo, Iowa. On November 11, 2015, Guthrie was arrested
for domestic abuse assault, first offense, in Grundy County,
Iowa. On November 12, Guthrie informed his law partners that
he was self-admitting himself into a substance-abuse
treatment program and took a leave of absence from the firm.
After becoming aware of other potential ethical violations,
the firm terminated Guthrie's partnership on November 24.
As part of the termination, the firm informed Guthrie he
would need to self-report his potential ethical violations or
the firm would do so. Guthrie self-reported the potential
ethical misconduct to the Board on December 7. The ethical
misconduct arose out of his handling of billings and trust
account issues in three separate client matters, in addition
to Guthrie's arrest for domestic abuse assault.
represented Brian Vogel in a modification action which was
finalized by decree on July 22, 2015. A notice of appeal was
filed by the opposing party on August 21. On September 25,
Guthrie and Vogel signed a fee contract and Vogel paid a
retainer of $4965.50, which was deposited into the firm's
trust account. On October 16, the appellant voluntarily
dismissed the appeal. This voluntary dismissal of appeal was
electronically received by Guthrie and his office at 10:35
a.m. that same date. Guthrie was notified by staff of the
dismissal, but directed staff not to notify Vogel of the
same day as the voluntary dismissal, Guthrie billed Vogel for
4.1 hours of work amounting to $717.50. Guthrie claimed that
this time was for work on the proof brief and designation. On
October 22, Guthrie billed Vogel for two hours of time for
work on the final brief/reply brief in the amount of $350. On
October 23, Guthrie billed Vogel for two hours of work on the
final proof brief in the amount of $350. On October 26,
Guthrie billed Vogel for two hours of time for receipt and
review of appellant's brief in the amount of $350.
Finally, on October 28, Guthrie billed Vogel for 1.8 hours of
work on his brief in the amount of $315. There was also an
additional charge for fees of $190 after the voluntary
dismissal. Therefore, following the voluntary dismissal,
Guthrie billed Vogel an additional 8.6 hours in the amount of
$1505 for work that was never performed.
member prepared a preliminary bill for review by Guthrie. At
that time, she questioned what would happen if the client
requested copies of Guthrie's work product he had billed
for. Guthrie told the staff person that he doubted Vogel
would ever ask for copies of the work product he billed him
for, but if he did, he would have to figure something out.
Guthrie had performed no work on the proof brief, designation
of appendix, or reply brief for which he billed Vogel.
November 6, Guthrie directed staff at the firm to transfer
$3797.50 from Vogel's trust subaccount to the firm's
general account. That same day, Guthrie withdrew $600 as a
check for fees in the Vogel case. Vogel was not advised of
the dismissal of the appeal until November 15, nine days
after the unearned fees were taken and three days after
Guthrie took his leave of absence from the firm. The firm
refunded Vogel all funds for the unearned fees.
also represented Muhamed Dizdarevic in a child custody case.
On November 6, 2015, Guthrie billed Dizdarevic $262.50 for a
1.5 hour telephone conference with opposing counsel. Guthrie
admitted no telephone conference occurred, which was also
confirmed by opposing counsel. On the same day, Guthrie
directed staff at the firm to transfer $332.50 from
Dizdarevic's trust subaccount to the firm's general
account. He thereafter withdrew $600 as a check for fees in
the Dizdarevic case. The firm reimbursed Dizdarevic for the