Supreme Judicial Court Rules

Supreme Judicial Court Rules Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:05: Claims by clients

Effective Date: 01/01/2004
Updates: Added June 3, 1974, effective September 1, 1974 Amended effective September 14, 1977
Amended effective April 15, 1996 Amended effective January 1, 2004 Amended June 26, 2019, effective September 1, 2019

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Rule effective until September 1, 2019

Section 1

The Board may consider applications by clients for reimbursement of losses discovered after the effective date of these rules, and may honor, pay, or reject such claims in whole or in part to the extent that funds are available and in accordance with such rules, regulations, and principles as may be in force from time to time, especially the provisions of this Chapter Four. All reimbursements shall be a matter of grace, not right, and no client, beneficiary, employer, organization, or other person shall have any right or interest in the Fund. No decision to grant or deny reimbursement shall be subject to judicial review in a court of either appellate or original jurisdiction.

Section 2

No application for reimbursement from the Fund shall be allowed unless the attorney of the client applicant (1) was, at the time the claim arose, a member of the Massachusetts bar with an office within the Commonwealth and engaged in active practice, and (2) shall have died, or have been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, or have resigned from the Massachusetts bar.

Section 3

The Board, in determining in its discretion whether any application for reimbursement from the Fund shall be allowed, shall attempt in the public interest to establish fair, reasonable, and consistent principles for the allowance and rejection of claims in the circumstances existing from time to time, and shall consider the following matters and factors together with such other circumstances as the Board may deem appropriate and relevant:

(1) The amounts available and likely to become available to the Fund for payment of claims; the size and number of claims likely to be presented in the future; the total amount of losses caused by defalcations of any one attorney or associated groups of attorneys; and the unreimbursed amounts of claims theretofore recognized by the Board as meriting reimbursement but for which complete reimbursement has not been made.

(2) The amount of the claimant's loss as compared with the amount of the then known losses sustained by other applicants who may merit reimbursement from the Fund; the degree of hardship suffered by the claimant as compared with that suffered by other applicants; and any negligence or conduct of the claimant which may have contributed to the loss.

Section 4

In addition to other conditions and requirements, the Board may require any applicant, as a condition of any payment from the Fund, to execute such instruments, to take such action, and to enter into such agreements as the Board may direct, including assignments, subrogation agreements, trust agreements, and promises to cooperate with the Board in making and prosecuting claims or charges against any person. The Board may request individual lawyers and bar associations to assist it in the investigation of claims.

Section 5

At any stage of its investigation, the Board may issue a subpoena requiring the attendance and testimony of a witness, including the respondent, and the production of any evidence, including books, records, correspondence or documents, relating to any matter in question in the investigation. The subpoena shall require a witness to appear before the Board or its counsel at a specified date and time and shall specify any evidence to be produced. Testimony may be taken electronically or otherwise.

Section 6

The Board may issue a subpoena requiring the attendance and testimony of a witness, and the production of any evidence, including books, records, correspondence or documents, relating to any matter in question in the proceeding. Any request by the respondent for such a subpoena shall be made in writing to the Board which may forthwith issue the subpoena. The subpoena shall require a witness to appear before the Board at a specified date and time and shall specify the evidence, if any, to be produced.

Rule effective September 1, 2019

Section 1

The Board may consider a client's claim for reimbursement of losses caused by an attorney who had been a member of the Massachusetts bar and who has been disbarred, suspended, has resigned from the bar, or has died. The Board may allow or deny such claims in whole or in part to the extent that funds are available and in accordance with all applicable rules and principles, especially the provisions of this Chapter Four.

Section 2

All reimbursements shall be a matter of grace, not right, and no client, beneficiary, employer, organization, or other person shall have any right or interest in the Fund. No decision to allow or deny reimbursement shall be subject to judicial review in a court of either appellate or original jurisdiction.

Section 3

In exercising its discretion whether to allow any claim for reimbursement from the Fund, the Board shall attempt to establish fair, reasonable, and consistent principles for the allowance and denial of claims. To the extent possible, the Board shall attempt to fully reimburse claimants for their actual losses consistent with the Board's role as public trustee of the Fund and considering the following and other factors as the Board may deem appropriate and relevant:

(A) The amounts available and likely to become available to the Fund for payment of claims;

(B) The size and number of claims likely to be presented in the future;

(C) The amount of the claimant's loss as compared with the amount of the losses sustained by other claimants who may merit reimbursement from the Fund;

(D) The unreimbursed amounts of claims recognized by the Board as meriting reimbursement but for which complete reimbursement has not been made;

(E) The degree of hardship suffered by the claimant as compared with that suffered by other claimants; and

(F) Any negligence or conduct of the claimant that may have contributed to the loss.

Section 4

The Board may require any claimant, as a condition of any payment from the Fund, to execute such instruments, to take such action, and to enter into such agreements as the Board may direct, including assignments, subrogation agreements, trust agreements, and promises to cooperate with the Board in making and prosecuting claims or charges against any person.

Section 5

The Board may issue a subpoena requiring the attendance and testimony of a witness, including the disbarred or suspended attorney, to appear before the Board or its counsel at a specified date and time. The subpoena shall specify any evidence relating to the Board investigation that the witness shall produce to the Board, including but not limited to books, records, correspondence, or documents. The Board may record testimony electronically or otherwise. The Board shall use the recording for its own administrative purposes.

Section 6

The Board shall keep confidential all claim forms, proceedings, investigations, claimants' and respondents' financial information, and reports involving specific claims received and payments made from the Fund. The Board and its staff shall maintain the confidentiality of the claim forms, investigations, and proceedings. This provision shall not be construed to:

(A) deny relevant information to the Board of Bar Overseers, to a court or investigative agency of proper jurisdiction, to an authorized agency investigating the qualifications of a judicial candidate, or applicant for governmental employment;

(B) prohibit the release of statistical or summary information that does not disclose the identity of the parties; or

(C) prohibit the release of publicity in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of this section.

Downloads for Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:05: Claims by clients

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Updates: Added June 3, 1974, effective September 1, 1974 Amended effective September 14, 1977
Amended effective April 15, 1996 Amended effective January 1, 2004 Amended June 26, 2019, effective September 1, 2019
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