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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Theft claims against lawyers dipped recently

The Minnesota Client Security Board only paid two claims at its last meeting, both on behalf of lawyers for whom the board had paid earlier claims. Not that I’m predicting a trend or anything, but a report where the board pays $6,000 for two lawyers is much preferable to the $67,117.41 paid for one lawyer last April and the $68,299.67 paid last January.

The CSB runs on a July to July fiscal year, so although the two payments so far this year are about $74,229, there’s still plenty of time for the board to catch up with its last two years of claims: $135,417 in FY 2007 (for only two lawyers) and $220,223 in FY 2006. However, there was about $2.7 million in the fund in June, 2007, so the board appears to be in solid shape.

The claims are paid in cases of lawyer theft, not negligence. In most cases the lawyers are suspended or disbarred, but sometimes they go on disability status, reminding us that mental illness and addiction are the roots of some of the thefts. We also should remember that many of the lawyers repay the CSB in full.

The fact that these claims have to be paid is disappointing, of course. However, it shouldn’t mask all the good work that is being done at CLEs and elsewhere to help lawyers avoid or treat the personal and professional pitfalls that can lead to lawyer dishonesty.

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