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2 attorneys suspended over real estate deal

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Indiana Lawyer Disciplinary Actions

Two attorneys have been suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court for their representation of a client in a real estate contract in which one of the attorneys had a financial interest.

In the combined disciplinary action released today, In the matter of: Jeffrey S. Rasley and In the Matter of: David M. Wood, Nos. 49S00-0808-DI-468, -467, Jeffrey Rasley and David Wood worked together in the same firm. A "seller" in the business of rehabbing and selling distressed real estate sold some property to the "buyer" he met through a third party in 2002. That third party brought Rasley into the transaction when the buyer borrowed $11,500 from Rasley to improve the property. The buyer signed a note for repayment, which was secured by a second mortgage on the property. The seller signed a mortgage on the property which held the seller and buyer liable in case of default.

The buyer fell behind on payments and Rasley had his law partner, Wood, send a letter to the buyer and seller saying Rasley would foreclose the property if the debt wasn't repaid. Rasley later said he wouldn't foreclose if a monthly interest payment was made to him. The seller interpreted this to mean that the seller was responsible for the payment since the buyer had no money.

Then the seller asked Wood about hiring his firm to represent him in a dispute with the buyer over the property because he thought Rasley would refrain from asserting his claim against him. Rasley attempted to resolve conflicts between himself and the seller; the two agreed the seller would assume the buyer's obligation to Rasley and they could jointly sue the buyer if necessary. The seller was never informed that he could consult outside counsel about the agreement.

In 2004, Rasley sent a letter demanding the seller pay the firm's attorney's fees, and acknowledge his priority on the lien of the property, or else he'd sue. The seller eventually agreed to settle the case by paying Rasley $15,600.

The Supreme Court unanimously found Rasley violated Professional Conduct Rule 1.7(b) based on his representation of the seller, and that Wood violated Rule 1.7(a) for his representation of both Rasley and the seller. Rasley and Wood lacked insight into their misconduct and expressed no remorse for it, the per curium opinion stated. The justices concluded Rasley didn't intentionally harm the seller and worked diligently to help him gain control of the property. Neither respondent has any disciplinary history.

Rasley will be suspended 120 days without automatic reinstatement and Wood will be suspended 30 days with automatic reinstatement because of his lesser role in the misconduct and his junior position to Rasley in experience and within the firm. The suspensions begin Jan. 22, 2010.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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