review of the report of the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance
commission recommends the revocation of an attorney's
license to practice law for violations of ethical rules.
van Brederode and Wendell J. Harms, Des Moines, for
McCormick of Belin McCormick, P.C., Des Moines, for
Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board charged
attorney Jason Springer with violating the rules of
professional conduct for preparing fraudulent documents in
transactions involving the sale of real estate. The Iowa
Supreme Court Grievance Commission found Springer violated
the rules and recommended that his license to practice law be
revoked. Upon our de novo review, we find Springer violated
the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct and impose a
suspension of two years.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Springer was admitted to practice law in Iowa in 2002. He
resides in Madrid and is well regarded by other lawyers in
the profession. He is active in a number of community
activities, including volunteering for the Madrid Fire
Department and coaching youth basketball and baseball. He is
also active in his church. He suffered from alcohol abuse
prior to seeking treatment in 2015. Prior to this proceeding,
Springer practiced real estate and personal injury law and
had no disciplinary history. His license to practice law,
however, was suspended on November 9, 2016, in a separate
action based on the conduct giving rise to this proceeding.
conduct responsible for this proceeding relates back to 2008
when Springer assisted two clients in organizing a business
that negotiated the sale of homes for financially distressed
owners in lieu of foreclosure. His clients would first
negotiate a price for the house that the lender would accept
in settlement of the outstanding balance of the mortgage.
Once the sale price was fixed, the clients would purchase the
home for the short sale amount. Then, often the same day or a
few days later, the clients would sell the home to a
prearranged third party for a profit.
assisted his clients in the two-part transaction. First,
Springer and his office staff would perform the work needed
to close the sale of the house between the parties to the
foreclosure and his clients. This work included completing a
HUD-1 form, disbursing the funds, and collecting a fee.
Second, Springer and his office staff would perform the
services necessary to close the second sale of the home to
the third party. Again, this work included completing a HUD-1
form, disbursing the funds, and collecting a fee. From 2009
to 2011, Springer assisted his clients in approximately forty
seven of the transactions, however, Springer's clients
were without sufficient funds to purchase the homes secured
by the delinquent mortgages. During such transactions, to
complete the first sale, Springer would falsely represent to
the lender on the HUD-1 form that his clients paid cash at
the short sale closing. The clients would present Springer
with a check made payable to the lender for the purchase
price, which Springer would hold to deposit until the second
sale was closed. Springer would then disburse the sale
proceeds from the second sale to his clients by depositing
the proceeds into their account. Once the funds were secured,
he would deposit the check representing the sale price in the
first transaction drawn on the account from his clients to
the mortgage lender.
false documents prepared by Springer and his staff in the
course of the transaction concealed from the lender that
Springer's clients did not have sufficient funds to
purchase the home. The documents further concealed that the
clients used the proceeds from the second sale to finance the
2011, Springer learned while attending a continuing legal
education seminar that the short sale transactions violated
federal law. He stopped performing the services for his
clients a short time later.
2015, Springer was convicted in federal court of seven counts
of bank fraud for knowingly executing a scheme to defraud a
financial institution in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1344(1) (2012). He was ultimately sentenced to four months in
prison, placed on probation for two years, and fined in the
amount of $15, 000. He served the sentence in 2016 and 2017.
2016, the Board filed a complaint against Springer. It
charged Springer with violating Iowa Rules of Professional
Conduct 32:1.2(d) (assisting a client in conduct the lawyer
knows is criminal or fraudulent), 32:1.16(a)(1) (failing to
withdraw from the representation of a client if the
representation will result in violating a rule of
professional conduct), 32:4.1(a) (knowingly making a false
statement of material fact or law to a third person),
32:4.1(b) (knowingly failing to disclose a material fact to a
third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting
a criminal or fraudulent act), and 32:8.4(b) (committing a
criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's
honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other
hearing in which Springer stipulated that offensive issue
preclusion based on his criminal convictions applied to the
charges in the complaint, the grievance commission found that
Springer engaged in the conduct underlying each count of bank
fraud. The commission then concluded Springer violated rules
32:1.2(d), 32:1.16(a)(1), 32:4.1(a), 32:4.1(b), and
32:8.4(b). The commission recommended that Springer's
license to practice law be revoked. Springer resists the
grievance commission's recommended sanction.
Scope of Review.
review attorney disciplinary proceedings de novo. Iowa Ct. R.
36.21(1). The Board must "prove attorney misconduct by a
convincing preponderance of the evidence." Iowa
Supreme Ct. Att'y Disciplinary Bd. v. Engelmann, 840
N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 2013). "This burden is less than
proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but more than the
preponderance standard required in the usual civil
case." Id. (quoting Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of
Prof'l Ethics & Conduct v. Lett, 674 N.W.2d 139,
142 (Iowa 2004)). Although we respectfully consider the
commission's factual findings and recommended sanction,
we are not bound by them. Iowa Supreme Ct. Att'y
Disciplinary Bd. v. Bieber, 824 N.W.2d 514, 518 (Iowa
2012). If we conclude an attorney violated a rule of
professional conduct, we "may ...