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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 grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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