Clients’ Security Fund of the D.C. Bar
901 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Please read the instructions that follow before downloading the Application for Reimbursement at the bottom of the page.
The Clients’ Security Fund of the District of Columbia Bar is a trust fund created by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to reimburse clients whose lawyers have dishonestly retained money, property, or some other thing of value that belongs to their clients. The fund is not authorized to pay claims asserting that a lawyer failed to do a good job representing a client; such malpractice claims can be filed in court. Nor is the fund authorized to pay claims asserting that a client was overcharged by a lawyer. Such fee disputes can be filed with the ACAB’s Fee Arbitration Service. Only dishonest conduct on the part of an attorney can give the fund jurisdiction to pay a claim for reimbursement. Ordinarily, the fund is a fund of last resort. Reimbursement from the fund is discretionary, turning on the equities of the claims presented. As a result, there is no right to restitution from the fund. In addition, filing a claim with the fund has no effect on the underlying legal matter about which a claimant may originally have consulted a lawyer. The claimant remains responsible for addressing such underlying legal matters.
The rules governing the Clients’ Security Fund permit the fund to reimburse claims only when the conditions listed below are satisfied:
- The lawyer against whom a claim is filed has died, retired, been disbarred or suspended; or the lawyer has been declared by a court to be bankrupt or mentally incompetent; or a court has entered a civil or criminal judgment against a lawyer based upon the alleged dishonest conduct at issue. These conditions need not be satisfied if the Board of Governors of the District of Columbia Bar has voted to clarify a claim to the fund.
- When the dishonest conduct occurred, the lawyer was acting as either a lawyer or a fiduciary. A lawyer is someone who represents the legal rights of someone else. A fiduciary is someone who has been entrusted with the obligation to hold money or property for the benefit of someone else. Executors, trustees, escrow holders, and other similar persons are fiduciaries.
- The money, property, or other things of value for which reimbursement is sought was in the actual or constructive possession of the lawyer.
- The loss to the claimant for which reimbursement is sought resulted from dishonest conduct on the part of the lawyer, such as theft, embezzlement, fraudulent misrepresentation, or other wrongful taking of the claimant’s property.
- The lawyer was a member of the District of Columbia Bar at the time that the dishonest conduct occurred, and the dishonest conduct had a significant connection with the District of Columbia, because the lawyer’s office or the subject matter of the representation was in the District of Columbia, or because there was some other nexus with the District of Columbia.
- The claim arose after April 1, 1972, the date on which the District of Columbia Bar and the Clients’ Security Fund were created.
- The claimant recognizes that the fund is only authorized to reimburse up to $100,000 for a single claim.
- There is no insurance, bond, or similar fund covering the loss.
- The claimant is not disqualified from receiving reimbursement. A claimant is disqualified if the claimant is a spouse, close relative, partner, or associate of the lawyer; or is an insurer, surety, or bonding agency; or is a business entity controlled by the lawyer or a relative or associate of the lawyer; or is a government entity or agency.
These conditions summarize the requirements for reimbursement imposed by the rules governing the fund. Applicants wishing to see the actual rules themselves can obtain copies from the Clients’ Security Fund office. The fund is only authorized to pay a claim if the claimant agrees both to assign to the fund any legal right to reimbursement that the claimant may have against the lawyer resulting from the lawyer’s dishonest conduct, and to cooperate with any efforts that the fund may make to pursue that claim against the lawyer. Any recovery that the fund obtains from the lawyer will be applied to offset payments made by the fund to the claimant and to offset the costs of obtaining the recovery. The claimant is entitled to any amounts that the fund may recover from the lawyer in excess of the amount necessary to reimburse the fund for its payment to the claimant and its collection costs.
If you believe that you have a claim that satisfies the conditions for reimbursement, please complete this application, have it verified under oath before a notary public, and return it to the Clients’ Security Fund office. The staff of that office is willing to assist you in completing the application. You may also be able to find a lawyer who is willing to help you complete the application, but a lawyer is not permitted to charge you a fee for doing so. Please remember that it can take several months to process an application for reimbursement.
Application for Reimbursement
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