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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides two today

In Dirk Morris, et al. v. Economy Fire and Casualty Company, a 5-page opinion, Justice Dickson concludes:

This is not a case where an insured, disputing or questioning the interpretation of an insurance policy, initiates a declaratory judgment action to seek judicial resolution. Rather, the Morrises here refused to comply with the policy conditions until first obtaining the prior recorded statements they gave to Economy's investigators, and when Economy refused to provide these statements, the Morrises brought a complaint in tort and immediately submitted interrogatories and requests for production of documents in order to use the rules of discovery to obtain their prior recorded statements. In expressly refusing to submit to examinations under oath until their prior recorded statements were furnished by Economy, the Morrises breached their policy contract. While claiming there was no breach, they do not alternatively contend that the breach was immaterial.

Having previously granted transfer, we now affirm the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs.

State of Indiana ex rel. Indiana State Bar Association v. Gary L. Northouse and Michael E. Ramer, is an 11-page per curiam opinion:
This is an original action brought by the Indiana State Bar Association (“Relator”) in the name of the State of Indiana pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 24.1 Relator seeks an order enjoining Respondents Gary L. Northouse (“Northouse”) and Michael E. Ramer (“Ramer”) from the unauthorized practice of law. This Court has original jurisdiction over matters involving the unauthorized practice of law. See IND. CONST. art. 7, § 4. The Court finds Northouse and Ramer have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and concludes an injunction is appropriate and necessary. * * *

Drafting and preparing testamentary and trust documents is clearly the practice of law. Northouse and Ramer crossed the line of permissible non-lawyer services and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, as alleged in the petition. Indeed, the briefs filed by Northouse and Ramer do not deny that they engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Instead, they take the position that this Court need not address that issue because this case is moot and, even if the case is not moot, an injunction is not proper. * * *

The evidence establishes that Northouse and Ramer have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Northouse and Ramer are ORDERED not to engage in acts that would constitute the unauthorized practice of law, including, but not limited to, advising others regarding the effect and/or appropriateness of a particular will, trust, or power of attorney, and preparing such documents for execution by others. This injunction does not prevent Northouse and Ramer from performing non-legal services for their clients.

Additionally, Northouse and Ramer are ORDERED to: (1) return the fees they collected for the unauthorized legal services in connection with the sale of the “Financial Organization” books mentioned in this opinion; and (2) provide a copy of this opinion to the purchaser of each such book. Within thirty days of the date of this opinion, counsel for Northouse and Ramer are ORDERED to file with this Court verified statements detailing how their respective clients have complied with the requirements in this paragraph. Those statements should include, at a minimum, identification (including name, address, and telephone number) of the purchasers to whom refunds and copies of this opinion have been provided and a specification of the amount of the refund.

The requirement that Northouse and Ramer provide the purchasers with a copy of this opinion is intended to allow each purchaser an occasion to consider whether to consult with a duly licensed lawyer of his or her choice to assess whether the documents sold as part of the book are suitable and appropriate for that purchaser.

The costs of the hearing in this matter are assessed against Northouse and Ramer and will be fixed by a separate order.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 6, 2006 12:09 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions