For immediate release: Oct. 25, 2005
For further information contact:
KENNETH J. BOSSONG, (609) 984-7179 or
WINNIE COMFORT, (609) 292-9580
Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Reaches Milestones in Obtaining Restitution
For the first year since its inception in 1969, the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection ["Fund"] has recovered from dishonest attorneys and other sources more than one million dollars to replace the money it pays out in claims.
"With some time left in the year, we don't even know what the new record will be yet," said Fund director Kenneth Bossong. The Fund's previous record for recovering such money was $984,000 in 2001.
The Fund reimburses clients who suffer losses caused by the dishonest conduct of their lawyers. Punishment for such misdeeds generally includes suspension of the lawyer's license followed by disbarment and, often, criminal prosecution.
The Fund pays claims where three things are proven: a specific loss, caused by dishonest conduct, within an attorney-client relationship. In return for the award paid, claimants assign to the Fund their rights to restitution. In turn, the Fund aggressively pursues these rights against the dishonest former lawyers and any other party who may be liable by virtue of how the loss occurred.
"The most important thing we do is to take care of deserving clients on behalf of all the State's honest lawyers who make this Fund possible," said Fund Chairman Alan L. Williams, "but those lawyers deserve to know how hard the Fund works to recover as much money as possible." The Board of Trustees chaired by Mr. Williams is appointed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey to oversee the Fund. Consisting of five lawyers and two lay members, the Board meets monthly in Trenton to determine claims and other matters of Fund policy. In reporting the record recovery at a recent meeting, the Trustees lauded the work of Fund Senior Counsel Daniel Hendi and William Thomas, and Fund Secretary and Accountant Ruby Cochran.
"These recoveries are a major reason the annual fee to support the Fund, $50, remains the amount first set in 1975," said Mr. Bossong. In those 30 years, the limit on what the Fund can pay a claimant has increased from $15,000 to $250,000. Almost all claimants are made whole for the money taken from them.
The Fund's commitment to seeking restitution is nothing new, as demonstrated by another milestone reached - total recoveries for the Fund's history recently passed the ten million dollar mark. Total claims paid going into the year were $44.2 million on 3,274 claims against 556 former lawyers in 36 years. There are more than 76,000 lawyers currently licensed in New Jersey.