How is the Client Protection Fund linked to the Maryland Judiciary?
The Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland, formerly known as the Client's Security Trust Fund, was created by an order of the Court of Appeals on July 6, 1966. The main purpose of the Fund is to maintain the integrity and protect the good name of the legal profession by reimbursing, to the extent authorized by the rule and deemed proper and reasonable by the Trustees, losses caused by theft of money by members of the Bar of the State of Maryland when acting either as attorneys or fiduciaries.
Where does the money for the Fund come from?
The Client Protection Fund is supported entirely by attorneys in the State of Maryland who are required by law to pay an annual assessment for the right to practice law.
Is this the same Fund as the Clients' Security Trust Fund?
Yes. The name was officially changed on July 1, 2002 so it would better convey the purpose of the Fund and better inform the public about what the Fund does.
How do I know if my situation is appropriate to file a claim?
The Fund is generally set up to reimburse people whose attorney has wrongfully taken money from them. The Fund does not handle malpractice claims. With regards to fee disputes, however, please note that there is a fine line between fee disputes and theft. If you feel that your attorney may have wrongfully taken money from you, then you should file a claim with the Client Protection Fund.
What is the process to file a claim? Where do I start?
Filing a claim is quite simple. You can either telephone the Fund office (410-630-8140) and request a claim form, write to the Fund at 200 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Suite 350, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, or download the form here. The form is relatively easy to fill out and self-explanatory. If you have any questions, you can call the Fund at the number above for assistance.
How long does the process take?
It is hard to estimate the time frame, but each case is handled as soon as possible. An investigator speaks with almost all claimants in reference to their claim and explains what needs to be done before the Trustees can consider the claim. The Trustees usually meet four times a year, and consider all claims where the investigation has been completed. Typically, the average time for a decision to be made on a claim is 3-4 months.
Is there a cost for filing a claim?
There is no charge made by the Client Protection Fund for filing a claim. If an attorney assists you with filing the claim, he or she is not allowed to take a fee for assisting you.
How much can I file the claim for?
In most cases, you can claim the full amount that was wrongfully taken. The amount reimbursed, however, cannot exceed 10 percent of the value of the Fund as of the close of the prior fiscal year. The Fund does not pay interest.
If my claim is upheld, what happens to the lawyer?
In all cases, before the claim is decided by the Trustees, a complaint must be filed with the Attorney Grievance Commission, which considers attorney discipline. Oftentimes, an attorney is disciplined before the claim is approved by the Trustees.
If my claim is denied, can I appeal?
Yes. All claimants have the right to have their claim reconsidered by the Trustees if they are not satisfied with the Trustees' initial decision. If they are still not satisfied with the decision after reconsideration, all claimants have the right to seek judicial review in the circuit court for the county where the claimant resides or has a principle place of business.
Can I file a claim against more than one lawyer?
You may file a claim against any attorney that you can prove, based on substantiated evidence, has wrongfully taken money from you.
Is there a statute of limitations, or a time limit, for when I can file a claim?
Claims for losses must be presented to the Trustees of the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland within six months after the discovery by the claimant of the defalcation, or at a later date at the discretion of the Trustees.