Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers Clients’ Security Board 2014 Awards

The Massachusetts Security Board announced in its 2014 report awards to victims of Massachusetts’ attorneys’ theft.  The number of awards was significantly higher in 2014, with a total of 114, than 2013 when there were only 69.  On the other hand, the actual awarded monies, $1.3 million, were only about half of the previous year’s awards of $2.8 million.

The Massachusetts Clients’ Security Board attempts to clean up for the “few bad apples” in the Massachusetts bar.  They do not cover negligence or legal malpractice claims and they do not cover overbilling, however, theft and financial wrongs are addressed.  The monies go to “members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary.”

Which Lawyers Caused the CSB to Act in 2014?

First, let’s put the “bad apples” into perspective: there are over 58,000 licensed attorneys in Massachusetts and only 23 were found to have committed an offense by the MSB in 2014.  In fact, most of the monies awarded in 2014 were to victims of a single attorney, Rosaleen J. Clayton of Auburn Massachusetts.

Where does the money come from?  It’s not tax dollars.  Funds come from Massachusetts attorneys annual dues to the Board of Bar Overseers.  It’s the attorneys taxing themselves to police themselves.    Since only disbarred or deceased attorneys malfeasance can be addressed by the Board, the monies do not come from the attorneys causing the losses.

Who sits on the Board?  Seven attorneys appointed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sit on the CSB.   These attorneys volunteer their time to supervise the three staff attorneys, who undertake the research, and vote on the final decisions of the Board.

How Do You File a Claim with the Massachusetts Clients Security Board?

Many folks ask us how to file a claim.  We direct them to the CSB website.  The following information is required, however:

  1. name, address and occupation of the claimant;
  2. name and address of the attorney;
  3. summary of the actions of the lawyer giving rise to the claim;
  4. date the claimant discovered the loss;
  5. efforts made to redress the loss;
  6. amount of loss, with a computation as to how the total was calculated;
  7. name and address of any attorney assisting you with collection;
  8. signature verifying the accuracy of the above.

The Massachusetts CSB will review the claim.  They will consider whether you have tried any and all other civil remedies, including simply securing funds from the attorney.  Attorneys, such as those of the Law Office of Neil Burns, are not allowed  any portion of the CSB award.

How Are Massachusetts CSB Hearings Held?

Some claims are allowed without hearings, while some require hearings before the CSB .  Many times the staff attorneys conduct investigations that resolve the issues, pushing some claims to external civil courts, or simply recommending that the Board award monies.

If you have a claim against an attorney that has been disbarred or deceased, you can file it with the CSB.  If you have a claim for negligence against an attorney, call Attorney Neil Burns for a free consultation