April 20, 2011 – At its final meeting of fiscal year 2011, the Wisconsin Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection Committee approved claims for victims of lawyer theft totaling $90,021.50. On April 11, the supreme court approved the committee’s petition to lift the $250,000 cap on the fund and keep the annual assessment at $20 from 2013 to 2017.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court established the fund in 1981 to reimburse people who lost money through dishonest acts of Wisconsin attorneys. Reimbursement decisions are made at the discretion of the committee, which meets three times a year.
At its final FY 11 meeting in March, the committee approved 11 claims for victims of lawyer theft totaling $90,021.50, deferred seven claims totaling $195,400 to FY 12; and denied 18 claims totaling $685,999.17. Claims were approved for the clients of:
the late Fred L. Bardenwerper, Milwaukee (one claim for unearned advanced fees $400)
Joan Marie Boyd, Shawano (two claims for unearned advanced fees, $2,500)
T. Christopher Kelly, Madison (one claim for trust account conversion, $1,041.50)
Charles R. Koehn, Green Bay (one claim for unearned advanced fees, $2,000)
Mark R. Kramer, Delafield (one claim for trust account conversion, $75,000)
Alf R H R Langan, Green Bay (one claim for unearned advanced fees, $3,000)
the late Gene D. Linehan, Wausau (one claim for unearned advanced fees, $1,750)
Brian Peter Mularski, Milwaukee (one claim for trust account conversion, $2,500)
Robert J. Smead, Menasha (one claim for unearned advanced fees, $1,000)
Ronald J. Thompson, Madison (one claim for unearned advanced fees, $830)
During the current fiscal year, the committee approved 40 claims against 14 lawyers and paid a total of $308,494.82 to victims of lawyer theft.
Fund for Client Protection
(For Fiscal Years 2002 – 2012)
The committee approved a $25 assessment for FY 12 per SCR 12.97(3), which begins July 1, 2011. Wisconsin-licensed attorneys, except those classified as inactive, support the fund through an annual assessment. This is the second year in a row that the committee has set the assessment at the maximum $25.
On April 11, the supreme court approved the fund’s rule change petition, which will help stabilize the fund’s ability to pay legitimate claims in a timely way.
Petition 10-10 eliminates the fund’s $250,000 sufficiency level and provides for a $20 annual assessment. The proposed amendment provides that the court will review SCR 12.07 every five years to evaluate whether the assessment and reserve fund are appropriate to meet the legitimate claims of clients. Additionally, it provides language that any balance at the end of a fiscal year will be maintained in a reserve account for the Wisconsin Lawyers Fund for Client Protection.
SCR 12.07 currently requires every attorney to pay a variable annual assessment as is necessary to maintain a $250,000 balance, but not to exceed an annual assessment of $25. However, whenever the fund’s annual value equals or exceeds $250,000 on the specified valuation date, there is no assessment for the following fiscal year.
The committee believes the fund’s balance at the end of the fiscal year is not a reliable indicator of the funds necessary for the upcoming fiscal year. Claims paid in 2009 were $181,853, and claims paid in 2010 were $501,697. At its final meeting of the year, March 15, the committee deferred more than $197,000 in claims to Fiscal Year 2012. To date there are five new claims totaling more than $300,000 for consideration on Aug. 2.
For more information about the fund, contact org kwenzel wisbar Kris Wenzel or call (800) 444-9404, ext. 6185, or (608) 250-6185.