For immediate release: March 7, 2007
For further information contact: Kenneth Bossong (609) 984-7179 or Winnie Comfort
NJ Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection - 4th Quarter Report 2006
During the fourth quarter of 2006, the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection, funded by the state's lawyers and judges, awarded $1,179,686.13 to clients for losses caused by 23 lawyers, the Board of Trustees announced today.
The Fund's purpose is to pay on behalf of the honest majority of lawyers for the wrongdoing of the few who are suspended or disbarred for misappropriation. The Fund was created by the New Jersey State Bar Association in 1961, with voluntary contributions from practicing lawyers as a commitment to high standards in the profession. In 1969, the Supreme Court established an annual attorney assessment that now generates about $2.75 million for the Fund each year.
In its 37-year history, the Fund has paid claims against 593 attorneys, approximately three-quarters of one percent of the 79,717 lawyers currently licensed in New Jersey.
Seven Trustees, five attorneys and two public members, administer the Fund serving staggered 5-year terms without compensation. They are appointed by the Supreme Court to 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 malpractice 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 $250,000 ( for claims arising after January 1, 1996, lesser amounts for claims arising prior to that date) and the Fund can provide up to $1,000,000 in claims against a given lawyer. Special permission can be granted by the Supreme Court to exceed the aggregate limit as happened this quarter.
The Supreme Court granted the Fund's petition to increase the aggregate maximum for claims against Carl Valore to $1.5 million. This allowed the Fund to pay the second half of awards to claimants who had received partial awards, as well as an award to one new claimant in the quarter. Such second installment awards to Valore claimants accounted for about 54% of the money paid in the quarter.
To receive a claim form, an individual should 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 may 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 Kenneth J. Bossong welcomes inquiries regarding the Fund's purpose and operation.
Attached is a list of fourth quarter claim awards and the status of each attorney under the Supreme Court discipline system.