Connecticut Bar Association to Receive Isaac Hecht Award for Avoiding Client Protection Fund Transfer to State Budget
CHICAGO, May 14, 2009—The Connecticut Bar Association will receive the nation’s highest award recognizing efforts to protect the rights of legal clients during the American Bar Association’s 25th National Forum on Client Protection, May 29 in Chicago.
The Isaac Hecht Law Client Protection Award will acknowledge actions of Connecticut lawyers to protect their clients, the integrity of the legal profession, the independence of state courts and public confidence in the honesty of lawyers entrusted with money and property belonging to their clients. Isaac Hecht, for whom the award is named, was treasurer of the Maryland Client Security Trust Fund from its creation in 1967 until his death in 2003. He served on ABA committees encouraging creation of such funds across North America, to the point where there is now such a fund in every U.S. state and every province of Canada.
Hecht “believed that the trust of law clients is the essential linchpin in every lawyer-client relationship, and that client protection funds represent the legal profession at its best,” said John S. Gleason, president of the National Client Protection Organization, Inc., which is presenting the award.
The award will be presented to CBA President Livia DeFilippis Barndollar, who also is a Connecticut Bar Association delegate to the ABA House of Delegates.
Lawyers across Connecticut engaged in a successful campaign to reverse a decision by the state’s governor and legislature to transfer $2 million from the Client Security Fund to the state’s general fund, as part of a larger strategy to address the state’s $8 billion budget deficit. The lawyers mounted a public campaign opposing the transfer, noting the fund was created specifically for client protection, and the state bar filed suit. Legislation protecting the fund from such action in the future was signed May 7 by Gov. Jodi Rell.
Connecticut’s Client Security Fund was created 40 years ago through contributions from lawyers across the state to finance a program to reimburse clients for money or property lost in the rare instances when lawyers misappropriated client money. The fund, now administered by the Client Security Fund Committee of the state’s Court Operations Division, is financed by a $75 annual fee assessed on each lawyer licensed in the state, generating $3 million per year. The fund paid $2.6 million in 67 awards to eligible law clients during 2008, leaving a $7.8 million balance and pending claims totally $5.8 million at the close of the fiscal year.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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