The State Legislature has given the New York Lawyers' Fund a broad mission: to protect legal consumers from dishonest conduct in the practice of law, to preserve the integrity of the bar, to safeguard the good name of lawyers for their honesty in handling client money, and to promote public confidence in the administration of justice in the Empire State.
The Trustees of the Lawyers' Fund attempt to secure these goals by reimbursing client money that is misused in the practice of law. But there are other efforts as well.
Principal among them is the development of proposals to change legal practices that provide opportunities for dishonest practitioners to exploit the trust of clients.
Other efforts focus on helping lawyers comply with their fiduciary and escrow obligations. The Trustees also develop consumer education programs with the hope that informed clients will avoid situations and transactions with lawyers that can result in losses.
In these efforts, the Lawyers' Fund serves as a helpmate to the courts of New York in shielding the integrity of the justice system and the honor and reputation of the lawyers who serve as its officers.
Typical losses reimbursed by the Lawyers' Fund include the theft of estate and trust assets, escrow deposits in real property transactions, settlements in personal injury litigation, debt collection receipts, money embezzled in investment transactions with law clients, and unearned fees paid in advance to lawyers who falsely promise their legal services.
There is a $300,000 maximum limit, per law client loss, on awards from the fund, fixed by regulation of the Trustees. There is no aggregate maximum on awards involving one lawyer.
Section 468-b of the Judiciary Law provides for the fund's administration, and section 97-t of the State Finance Law governs the management of the fund's assets as a special trust account in the State Treasury. Both statutes vest full management authority in a Board of Trustees appointed by the judges of the New York State Court of Appeals.
The Trustees serve renewable terms of three years, and without compensation for their services. Since the fund's organization in 1981, the Court of Appeals has maintained a panel with a mix of five practicing lawyers and two community and business leaders who are not members of the bar.
The Board's officers are a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Treasurer. The fund's Executive Director serves as the Board's Secretary and its Counsel.
|Eleanor Breitel Alter of Manhattan has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees since 1985. A partner in the Manhattan law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, Mrs. Alter is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Columbia University Law School (1964).||Bernard F. Ashe of Delmar, Albany County, is Vice-Chairman of the Board. Mr. Ashe is a former General Counsel to New York State United Teachers. He is a graduate of Howard University and the Howard University School of Law (1961). Mr. Ashe is a charter member of the Board. His current term expires on November 19, 2005.|
|Nancy Burner of Setauket, Suffolk County, is a sole practitioner and elder law attorney. She is a graduate of the State University at Stony Brook and Hofstra University School of Law (1988). Ms. Burner was appointed to a three-year term of office on December 10, 2002.||Charles Joseph Hynes of Brooklyn. Mr. Hynes is the District Attorney of Kings County. He is a graduate of St. John's University and its School of Law (1961).|
|Theresa B. Mazzullo of Rochester, Monroe County, is President and a Principal of EPIC Advisors, Incorporated, a retirement plan administration firm. Mrs. Mazzullo, the Fundís Treasurer, is a graduate of Spring Hill College and Stonier Graduate School of Banking (1994). She was appointed to a three-year term of office as Trustee on December 10, 2002.||Eric A. Seiff resides in the Bronx. He is a partner in the Manhattan Law firm of Seiff, Kretz & Maffeo. Mr. Seiff is a graduate of Yale University and the Columbia University Law School (1958).|
|Charlotte G. Holstein of Syracuse. Mrs. Holstein is a civic leader, founder and Executive Director of F.O.C.U.S. Greater Syracuse, a community interest group. She is a a graduate of Brockport State University (1946) and 1998 recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from LeMoyne College.||Timothy J. O'Sullivan of Albany is the Executive Director and Counsel of the Lawyers' Fund. He is a graduate of LeMoyne College and the Albany Law School of Union University .|
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