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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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