©New York State Lawyers Fund for Client Protection 1997-2005
All Rights Reserved
7200.1 Purpose of fund. The purpose of the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection is to promote public confidence in the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession by reimbursing losses caused by the dishonest conduct of attorneys admitted and licensed to practice law in the courts of New York State.
7200.2 Organization. (a) The fund shall be administered by the board of trustees appointed by the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.
(b) The board of trustees shall consist of seven members. Of the trustees first appointed, three shall be appointed for terms of three years, two for a term of two years, and two for a term of one year. As each term expires, each new appointment shal l be for a term of three years.
(c) The trustees shall serve without compensation, but shall be entitled to receive their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the discharge of their duties.
(d) The trustees shall from time to time elect from their membership a chairman, vice-chairman, treasurer and such additional officers as they deem necessary or appropriate.
(e) The trustees shall retain an executive director to serve as the chief administrative officer of the fund.
7200.3 Meetings. (a) The trustees shall meet at least four times each year at such locations, or in such manner, as the chairman shall designate. Special meetings may be called by the chairman, and shall be called by the chairman upon the reque st of a least two trustees. Meetings may be conducted by telephone conference. The chairman shall provide reasonable notice of all meetings.
(b) Four trustees shall constitute a quorum. A majority of the trustees present at any meeting of the board may exercise any power held by the trustees, except as otherwise provided in this Part.
7200.4 Powers of trustees. In the exercise of the authority granted the trustees, the trustees have the power to:
(a) receive, hold, manage and distribute 50 per centum of the monies collected pursuant to the provisions of section 468-a of the Judiciary Law and such other monies as may be credited or otherwise transferred from any other fund or source, pursuant to law, including voluntary contributions together with any interest accrued thereon. All deposits of such revenues not otherwise required for the payment of claims shall be secured and invested as required by the provisions of section 97-t of the State Fi nance Law;
(b) adopt regulations for the administration of the fund and procedures for the presentation, determination and payment of claims, including the establishment of a maximum limitation for awards to claimants;
(c) investigate claims for reimbursement of losses as the trustees deem appropriate using staff and other available resources;
(d) coordinate and cooperate with the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court in the investigation of claims;
(e) examine witnesses and, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Practice Law and Rules and the regulations of the trustees, administer oaths or affirmations and issue subpoenas;
(f) hold such hearings as the trustees deem appropriate;
(g) determine, in the trustees' sole discretion, the merits of claims presented for reimbursement, the amount of reimbursement to be awarded, the terms under which reimbursement shall be made and the order of payment.
(h) prosecute claims for restitution to which the fund may be entitled;
(i) engage in studies and programs for client protection and prevention of dishonest conduct in the practice of law;
(j) employ and at pleasure remove employees, legal counsel, agents and consultants, and fix their compensation within the amounts made available therefor;
(k) furnish the Court of Appeals with such reports and audits as the court may require; and
(l) perform all other acts necessary or proper for the fulfillment of the purposes of the fund and its effective administration.
7200.5 Duties of officers. (a) The chairman shall preside at all meetings of the trustees, generally supervise the administration of the fund, and exercise such other functions and duties that the trustees may assign or delegate, or that are cus tomary to the office of chairman.
(b) The vice-chairman shall assume the duties of chairman in the absence or disability of the chairman.
(c) The treasurer shall maintain the financial records of the fund and, jointly with the chairman, certify vouchers of the fund that authorize the State Comptroller to make payments to claimants.
(d) The executive director shall assist the trustees, supervise the implementation of regulations and policies of the trustees, coordinate the investigation of claims and prepare reports thereon, supervise staff, serve as secretary at meetings, and ful fill such other duties as may be assigned or delegated by the chairman or the trustees.
7200.6 Conflict of interest. A trustee with a past or present relationship with a claimant or the attorney whose alleged conduct is the subject of the claim shall disclose such a relationship to the trustees and, if the trustees deem appropriat e, that the trustee shall not participate in any proceeding relating to such claim.
7200.7 Reports (a) On or before the first day of April each year, the trustees shall prepare an annual report of the activities and operations of the fund during the preceding year. The report shall be transmitted to the Court of Appeals, the Governor, the Legislature and the State Comptroller.
(b) The trustees may also issue periodic reports to the public concerning the activities and procedures of the fund.
7200.8 Eligible claims. (a) The trustees shall consider claims for reimbursement of losses caused by the dishonest conduct of attorneys admitted to practice in New York State, provided that:
(1) the dishonest conduct alleged constituted the wrongful taking of money, securities, or other property belonging to a law client or other person who entrusted it with an attorney admitted to the practice of law in New York State;
(2) the dishonest conduct occurred in the practice of law by an attorney admitted to practice law in New York State;
(3) there is, in the trustees' discretion, a sufficient nexus between the dishonest conduct alleged in the claim and the practice of law in New York State;
(4) the claim is made directly by the client or other person, or their representative;
(5) the loss occurred or was discovered on or after June 1, 1981; and
(6) unless the trustees decide otherwise, the attorney has been suspended or removed from practice, is dead, or the attorney's whereabouts cannot be determined.
(b) The claimant shall have the responsibility to provided satisfactory evidence of an eligible loss.
(c) For the purposes of this section, "dishonest conduct" shall include the misappropriation or wilful misapplication of money, securities or property in the practice of law, and unlawful acts in the nature of theft, larceny, embezzlement, fr aud or conversion.
(d) Losses not eligible for reimbursement include damages resulting from an attorney's negligence, malpractice or neglect; losses incurred by government agencies; losses incurred by financial institutions; losses incurred by business organizations having twenty or more employees; and losses arising from financial transactions with attorneys that do not occur within an attorney-client relationship and the practice of law.
(e) (1) In a loss resulting from an attorney's refusal or failure to refund an unearned legal fee as required by the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility, "dishonest conduct" shall include an attorney's misrepresentation, or false pro mise, to provide legal services to a law client in exchange for the advance payment of a legal fee. (2) An attorney's failure to perform or complete a legal engagement shall not constitute, in itself, evidence of misrepresentation, false promise or dishonest conduct. (3) Reimbursement of a legal fee may be allowed only if: (i) the attorney provided no legal services to the client in the engagement; or (ii) the legal services that the attorney actually provided were, in the trustees' judgment, minimal or insignificant; or (iii) the claim is supported by a determination of a court, a fee conciliation bureau, or an accounting acceptable to the trustees that establishes that the client is owed a refund of a legal fee. No award reimbursing a legal fee shall exceed the act ual fee that the client paid the attorney. (4) In the event that a client is provided equivalent legal services by another attorney without cost to the client, the legal fee paid to the predecessor attorney will not be eligible for reimbursement, except in extraordinary circumstances.
7200.9 Filing claims. (a) Claims for reimbursement from the fund shall be written and verified. The fund shall provide an official claim form which shall require the following information: the name and address of the claimant; the name and la st-known address of the attorney who is alleged to have committed a dishonest act; the terms of the attorney's professional engagement for the claimant; the amount of the loss incurred; the date of the loss or the period of time when the loss occurred; th e place and manner in which the loss occurred; the date and manner in which the claimant discovered the loss; a description of what steps the claimant has taken to recover the loss from the attorney or any other source; and whether there are other sources , such as insurance, fidelity bonds or surety agreements, to reimburse the claimant;s loss. The trustees may require a claimant to submit additional information that may be necessary to determine a claim.
(b) The fund shall promptly acknowledge receipt of the claim, which shall be assigned a claim number.
(c) A claim shall be filed with the fund within two years after the following dates, whichever is latest: (1) the date when the alleged dishonest conduct occurred; or (2) the date when such dishonest conduct was discovered.
(d) The trustees, in their discretion, may permit the late filing of claims upon a showing that compliance with time limitations of this section may cause undue hardship or result in an injustice.
(e) In the discretion of the trustees, a claim shall be deemed filed when any writing specifying the claim is received by the fund, a bar association, an attorney grievance committee, or a police or other government agency.
7200.10 Processing claims. (a) Whenever it appears that a claim is not eligible for reimbursement pursuant to these regulations, the claimant shall be advised of the reasons why the claim is not eligible for reimbursement, and that unless addit ional facts to support eligibility are submitted to the fund within 30 days, the claim shall be dismissed.
(b) All claims that are eligible for reimbursement from the fund shall be investigated in such manner as the trustees deem appropriate. The trustees shall be furnished a written report of each investigation.
(c) The appropriate Appellate Division of the Supreme Court shall be requested to assist the trustees, to the extent the Court deems appropriate, in the investigation of claims for reimbursement from the Fund.
(d) A certified copy of an order disciplining an attorney for the same act of conduct alleged in a claim, or a final judgment imposing civil or criminal liability therefor, shall, for the purpose of these regulations, be evidence that the attorney comm itted such act.
(e) Upon receipt of the investigation report, the trustees shall determine whether to conduct additional investigation. If the attorney whose alleged conduct gave rise to the claim has not been previously notified of the claim, a copy shall be provide d the attorney. The attorney shall be invited to respond to the claim within 20 days.
(f) The trustees may request that testimony be presented to complete the record. Upon request, the claimant and the attorney, or their respective representatives, shall be given an opportunity to be heard.
(g) The trustees shall determine, in their sole discretion whether a claim merits reimbursement from the fund and the amount, time, manner of its payment and the conditions upon which payment shall be made. The award of a claim shall require the affir mative vote of at least four trustees.
(h) Unless the trustees direct otherwise, no claim shall be awarded during the pendency of a disciplinary proceeding involving the same act of conduct that is alleged in the claim.
(i) In the exercise of their discretion in determining claims, the trustees shall consider, together with such other factors as they deem appropriate:
(1) the amount of money available and likely to become available to the fund for the payment of claims, and the size and number of claims that have been or are likely to be presented; and
(2) the amount of the claimant's loss as compared with the amount of losses sustained by other claimants who may merit reimbursement from the fund; and (3) the degree of hardship suffered by the claimant as a result of the loss; and
(4) any conduct of the claimant that contributed to the loss; and
(5) the existence of other sources to reimburse the claimant's loss, such as insurance, fidelity bonds or surety agreements.
(j) Written notice of the trustees' determination shall be provided the claimant and the attorney whose alleged conduct gave rise to the claim, or their representatives.
7200.11 Reconsideration of claims. A claimant who is denied reimbursement in whole or in part may request that the trustees reconsider the claim by filing an application with the fund no later than 30 days following receipt of the truste es' determination. If a claimant fails to request reconsideration, or the original determination of the trustees is confirmed, the trustees' determination shall be final.
7200.12 Legal right to payment from fund. No person or organization shall have any legal right to payment from the fund as a claimant, third-party beneficiary or otherwise.
7200.13 Payment of awards. (a) Claimants shall be reimbursed for losses in amounts to be determined by the trustees. No award shall exceed $300,000.
(b) Awards shall not include interest. Attorney's fees and other incidental and out-of-pocket expenses shall not be reimbursed by the fund. Additional taxes, interest, late charges and similar penalties finally incurred by a claimant as the direct re sult of an attorney's misappropriation may be eligible for reimbursement in the discretion of the trustees. The investigation report in a claim which involves such an element of loss shall contain an estimate of the amount of such loss and a recommendati on whether the loss merits reimbursement from the fund. Unless the trustees determine otherwise, payment thereof may be processed as a supplemental award of reimbursement without further action by the trustees, provided the claimant provides proof of los s within six months following the trustees' approval of the underlying claim. The executive director shall report quarterly to the trustees on the payment of all supplemental awards during the preceding quarter.
(c) No claim for reimbursement shall be paid until the claimant transfers to the fund, in such form as the trustees shall authorize the claimant's rights against the attorney whose dishonest conduct caused the claimant's loss and any other person or en tity who may be liable for the claimant's loss. (d) Payment of claims shall be made in such amounts and at such times as the trustees deem appropriate and may be paid in lump-sum or installment amounts.
(e) If a claimant is a minor or an incompetent, the award may be paid to a parent, guardian, committee or attorney of the claimant, on the behalf of and for the benefit of the claimant.
(f) All payments of awards of reimbursement from the fund shall be made by the State Comptroller upon vouchers certified by the chairman and the treasurer.
7200.14 Representation by counsel. (a) A claimant and the attorney whose alleged conduct resulted in the claim shall have the right to be represented by an attorney.
(b) In accordance with the rules of the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court, no attorney who assists a claimant process a claim with the fund shall charge or accept compensation for those services, without the prior written approval of the trustee s. No fee applications by attorneys, including public officers and court-appointed fiduciaries, shall be approved by the trustees absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances.
7200.15 Confidentiality. (a) Except as otherwise provided, all claims and proceedings and the records relating thereto shall be sealed and confidential.
(b) All information provided by an Appellate Division of the Supreme Court shall remain sealed and confidential to the extent required by section 90 of the Judiciary Law.
(c) The trustees' final determination awarding reimbursement of a claim, and the facts relating to the claimant's loss, shall be a public record.
(d) An attorney whose alleged conduct gave rise to the claim may waive confidentiality.
(e) This section shall not be construed to deny access to information by the Court of Appeals, and Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, or to any court of competent jurisdiction in a judicial review proceeding.
7200.16 Amendment of regulations. New regulations may be adopted, and any regulation may be amended or repealed, by the trustees at any regular or special meeting, provided that notice of the proposed adoption, amendment or repeal have been give n all trustees at least seven days before the meeting. New regulations, amendments and repeals shall be published in the State Register. Copies of all regulations shall be made available to the public at all offices of the fund.
7200.17 Construction of regulations. These regulations shall be liberally construed to accomplish the objectives of the fund and the policies of the trustees.