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Former Trustee's Representation of Purchaser Against Former Debtor

Adopted: July 14, 1989

Opinion rules that a lawyer who served as a trustee may after foreclosure sue the former debtor on behalf of the purchaser.


Attorney is the named trustee of a deed of trust granted by Debtor to secure a debt to Lender. Attorney commences a foreclosure proceeding and conducts a sale at which Bidder enters the high bid. The amount of the bid is sufficient to produce a surplus after satisfying all liens known to Attorney. At the end of the upset period, Bidder timely tenders the amount of the bid, which Attorney deposits in his trust account and from which Attorney promptly satisfies all known liens and expenses of the foreclosure. Later, Attorney records a special warranty deed to Bidder. In the interim, Debtor has wrongfully caused removal of improvements affixed to the subject property, whereupon Bidder asks Attorney to represent Bidder against Debtor. Under these circumstances, if Attorney deposits the surplus with the Clerk, may Attorney then ethically represent Bidder in a tort claim against Debtor (for replevin or damages from conversion) or in a proceeding pursuant to G.S. §45-21.32 to assert a claim for part of the surplus held by the Clerk?


Yes. Since an attorney serving as trustee pursuant to the terms of a deed of trust does not represent the grantor/debtor as an attorney, such an attorney may, after foreclosing, represent the interests of an entity adverse to the grantor/debtor in a cause of action related to the foreclosure without violating Rule 5.1(d).

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