Login | December 18, 2018

Client Protection Fund releases figures for lawyer theft

Supreme Court
Public Information Office

Published: November 14, 2017

The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection in Ohio awarded $841,226.87 for 158 claims of attorney theft, according to the fund’s annual report for fiscal year 2017 released last week.

The fund seeks to support public confidence in the legal profession by reimbursing clients for losses sustained as a result of the dishonest conduct of their attorneys. The claims eligible for reimbursement in fiscal year 2017 – July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017 – resulted from the dishonest conduct of 40 attorneys, which is less than 0.1 percent of Ohio’s active attorneys.

“This year’s report again confirms that the overwhelming majority of Ohio lawyers observe high standards of integrity and professionalism when entrusted with their clients’ money or property,” said Janet Green Marbley, who serves as the fund’s administrator. “The dishonest acts of a few, however, can affect the public’s image of and confidence in the legal profession as a whole.”

Since its inception in 1985, the fund has reimbursed more than $22 million to 2,988 former law clients, Green Marbley noted.

Of the claims approved for the 2017 fiscal year, 144 (54 percent of total amount awarded) were for unearned-fees, 13 (37 percent of total amount awarded) were for thefts by fiduciaries, and one (9 percent of total amount awarded) involved theft of settlement proceeds.

Also in the report:

• 108 claimants received 100 percent reimbursement of their losses

• Three claimants received the maximum ($75,000) award amount

• 34 claims were ruled ineligible

“I would like to express my appreciation to the commissioners with whom I serve for their hard work and dedication to the accomplishment of the fund’s mission. These individuals volunteer their time and expertise to help improve the image of the legal profession by helping those who have been harmed by the dishonest acts of a few,” Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Russo said in the report. Judge Russo chairs the fund’s seven-member board of commissioners.

The fund, formerly known as the Clients’ Security Fund, was created in 1985 by Gov. Bar R. VIII of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar and is supported from the Attorney Registration Fund. The board of commissioners, which is appointed by the Supreme Court justices, determines the eligibility of claims filed and manages the fund’s assets.