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Attorney in contempt for violating suspension

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The Indiana Supreme Court fined an attorney for being in contempt of court for work he performed for clients while he was suspended. The justices noted that while they haven't attempted to provide a comprehensive definition of what constitutes the practice of law, they found some of the activities the attorney admitted to performing to constitute the practice of law.

Douglas Patterson was suspended in June 2008 for engaging in attorney misconduct for conversion of client funds, deceit in concealing his misconduct, and dishonesty with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. The Supreme Court suspended him for a period of no less than three years beginning July 31, 2008

In the April 30 order posted online June 19, In the Matter of Douglas W. Patterson, No. 82S00-0402-DI-90, the Supreme Court decided Patterson's review of a proposal to unsecured creditors of his client was not a routine transaction. Patterson worked with a couple who owned two corporations on Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions in 2008. Even though a new attorney entered an appearance for the corporations after Patterson's suspension, he continued to perform some work on the bankruptcy. He admitted to proofreading the proposal with regards to the couple's exemption rights, making sure the proposal's description of the bankruptcy process was accurate, and advising the couple the proposal offered unsecured creditors with more than they would receive if they filed for personal bankruptcy.

The Supreme Court found those actions to constitute the practice of law under the circumstances of this case. And although the high court hasn't provided a comprehensive definition of what constitutes the practice of law, Patterson's actions in this case caused him to be in contempt of court. Citing previous caselaw and disciplinary actions, the justices explained the core element of practicing law is giving legal advice to a client. The practice of law also includes making it one's business to act for others in legal formalities, negotiations, or proceedings. Non-attorneys also may not give advice or opinions as to the legal effects of the instruments they prepare or the legal rights of the parties.

Because Patterson's violation of his suspension appeared to be limited to this transaction, the justices concluded a $500 fine was the appropriate discipline. They also noted they will take this incident into consideration if Patterson seeks reinstatement to the practice of law.

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  1. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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