During the third quarter of 2011, the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, funded by the state’s lawyers and judges, paid $475,224.11 to clients for losses caused by twelve lawyers, according to the board of trustees.
The purpose of the fund is to pay on behalf of the honest majority of lawyers for the wrongdoing of the few who are suspended or disbarred for misappropriation. In its 42-year history, the fund has paid claims against a total of 662 attorneys. There currently are 88,027 lawyers licensed in New Jersey.
The fund operates under the authority of the Supreme Court pursuant to Court Rule 1:28. The Court appoints the seven trustees, five attorneys and two public members, who serve staggered 5-year terms without compensation. The trustees consider clients’ claims and make awards when it is determined that the loss was caused by dishonest lawyer conduct, under fund rules. Cases involving legal malpractices and negligence are handled through civil court actions and fee disputes through the district fee arbitration committees established by the Supreme Court.
For a claim to be compensable, the attorney against whom it is filed must have been a member of the bar, acting as either attorney or fiduciary, at the time of the incident; and unless deceased, must have been disbarred or suspended from the bar, or convicted of embezzlement or other misappropriation of property.
An individual client can receive up to $400,000 for claims arising after Jan. 1, 2007, lesser amounts for claims arising prior to that date, and the fund can provide up to $1.5 million in claims against any one lawyer. Special permission can be granted by the Supreme Court to exceed the aggregate limit.
To receive a claim form, write to the New Jersey Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection, Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, P.O. Box 961, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0961, or call (609) 292-8008. The form must be completed, notarized and returned with copies of any proofs of the transaction. There is no filing fee. Claimants assisted in their claims by practicing attorneys receive their representation free of charge. Fund Director Daniel R. Hendi welcomes inquiries regarding the fund’s purpose and operation.Attached is a list of the second quarter claim awards and status of each attorney under the Supreme Court discipline system.