HOW THE FUND OPERATES
The Board members are authorized under the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court to grant money to a member of the public who has suffered a financial loss only when the financial loss was caused by a defalcation. A defalcation occurs when an attorney has actually stolen, embezzled, or misappropriated money or other property that rightfully and legally belongs to his client, but with which he has been entrusted during the course of providing legal services. The defalcation must have arisen during the attorney's legal representation of the client.
There is no defalcation where a client disputes the fee charged by his attorney, or where a client believes the legal services rendered by his attorney were inadequate, negligent, or incomplete.
The Board is authorized to grant awards only when the attorney, against whom a claim is filed, was a member of the bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and:
- has resigned
- has been disbarred or suspended by the Supreme Judicial Court, or
- has died.
If these criteria are not present, the Board lacks jurisdiction over the matter and is, therefore, prohibited from taking any action on the claim.
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HOW TO FILE A CLAIM
A Clients' Security Board application form may be obtained from the office of the Board or may be printed from this web site. It must be completed and submitted to the Board along with all supporting documentation, which may include cancelled checks, correspondence, and receipts. A claimant may have, but is not required to have, the assistance of counsel in completing the application form. Counsel may not receive any compensation for any assistance rendered in connection with any aspect of presenting a claim to the Board. No costs or charges are paid by a claimant who presents a claim to the Board.
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PROCESSING THE CLAIM
Upon receipt of a completed application form, the Board will promptly acknowledge receipt of the claim. The Board will review the application for the purpose of determining whether the Board has jurisdiction of the matter. The Board will also review the application to determine whether the claimant may have a cause of action against a third party. If there is a viable claim against a third party, the Board usually will take no action on the claim until the claimant has exhausted all available remedies for reimbursement of a financial loss.
If the Board believes additional information is necessary, the claimant or his counsel will be contacted. Once the Board determines the application is complete, the claim will be docketed and set for a hearing or a hearing on the documentation only, as expeditiously as possible.
The claimant will receive notice of the date of the hearing and a financial statement which must be completed and delivered to the Board prior to or at the hearing. The claimant must attend the hearing. The claimant may, but is not required to have, the assistance of counsel at the hearing. If the claim is set for a hearing on the documentation only, the claimant is not asked to attend and the matter is decided based upon the documentation submitted.
Shortly after the hearing, the Board will vote on whether an award is to be granted to a claimant. The Board will apply fair and reasonable principles in voting to honor, pay, or reject claims in whole or in part. All reimbursements are a matter of grace, not right. Among other factors, the Board may consider the degree of hardship suffered by the claimant, and any negligence or conduct of the claimant which may have contributed to the financial loss. The claimant will be notified promptly of the decision of the Board.
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RECEIPT OF CLAIM
Before any payment will be made from the Fund, the claimant will be required to execute and deliver to the Board a subrogation agreement transferring to the Board his claim against the attorney and authorizing the Board to prosecute the claim against the attorney in such manner as the Board may deem appropriate. The subrogation agreement also requires that in the event that the claimant should ever receive any restitution from the attorney, the claimant must repay to the Fund an amount up to the amount of the original reimbursement from the Board.
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All claims made to the Board will be treated confidentially in accordance with the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court. See CSB Rules Please be advised that proceedings before the Board are confidential; however, the claim application or the information contained therein may be provided to investigative agencies such as the Office of Bar Counsel, the Office of the Attorney General, or the Office of the District Attorney.
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