For immediate release: May 7, 2008
For further information contact:
Kenneth J. Bossong 609-984-7179 or
Winnie Comfort 609-292-9580
Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection Raises Limit on Claims
Clients seeking reimbursement from the New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection now may be eligible to receive more money, today announced Fund Director Kenneth J. Bossong. The Supreme Court recently approved a request by the Fund to increase the amount that can be paid from $250,000 per claimant to $400,000. The new limit is in effect for claims arising after Jan. 1, 2007. In addition, the Court has agreed to raise the limit for aggregate claims against any one lawyer from $1 million to $1.5 million. Special permission may be granted by the Court to exceed the aggregate limit.
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 $2.9 million for the Fund each year.
In its 39-year history, the Fund has paid claims against 611 attorneys, approximately three-quarters of one percent of the 82,338 lawyers currently licensed in New Jersey.
During the first quarter of 2008, the Fund awarded $707,978 to clients for losses caused by 12 lawyers.
Seven Trustees, five attorneys and two public members, administer the Fund serving 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.
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 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. Inquiries regarding the Fund's purpose and operation are welcome.