Lawyer disbarred for filing immigration docs during suspension

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A Florida lawyer has been disbarred for continuing to represent immigration clients while he was suspended for his behavior when he was working as a public defender in the Jacksonville area.

The Florida Supreme Court disbarred Matt Shirk in a March 13 order, Law360 reports. He had served as public defender in Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit from 2008 to 2016, when he lost a bid for re-election.

Shirk was suspended in 2022 after a referee found he hired three women for the public defender’s office outside of normal hiring practices, sent them flirtatious texts, and then fired them “to save his marriage,” according to Law360 and past coverage by the Florida Times-Union at

Two of the women Shirk hired worked at a “Hooters-style restaurant” called Whisky River, the Times-Union said, citing information from an investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Shirk also kept alcohol in a decorative globe in his office and provided drinks to two of the women when the office was open but the women weren’t working, the referee said. Shirk also provided information about a child client to a French film crew making a documentary about the case after a plea was entered, the referee found.

Shirk’s 2022 suspension from the Florida Bar began in September 2022 and was to last for a year, with proof of rehabilitation required before reinstatement, according to a Florida Bar petition seeking disbarment. He was also suspended from practice before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for a year after he provided notice of the bar suspension.

While he was suspended, Shirk entered attorney appearances and filed motions for continuances for immigration clients, the Florida Bar alleged in a petition for contempt and an order to show cause. The Florida Supreme Court held Shirk in contempt, said Shirk is still suspended and imposed disbarment effective immediately.

Shirk did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment by the ABA Journal. Nor did he immediately respond to an email listed by the Florida Bar for his law office.

Shirk said in his response to the Florida Bar petition that the preparation of applications and forms on behalf of immigration clients does not require bar membership, according to the Law360 story.

Shirk said he had focused on winding down his law practice after the suspension order but realized he needed to mail in several immigration forms in early October 2022. He removed documents identifying himself as a lawyer but failed to remove the forms for three clients due to “a complete oversight,” he said.

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