Sunday, November 15, 2015

Recently-Deceased 76-Year Old Connecticut Lawyer, Hailed As Iconic, "Larger-Than-Life," Extolled For Honesty, "Ethical Backbone" Leaves Over $1 Million Deficit In Client Trust Account; Attorney Ripoff Reimbursement Fund Now Faces Two Dozen Claims To Cover Shortfall

In New Haven, Connecticut, The Connecticut Law Tribune reports:
  • After New Haven attorney William Gallagher died on Christmas Day 2013, dozens of Connecticut lawyers stepped forward to sing his praises. Gallagher was described as an "icon" and a "larger-than-life figure," with a gruff demeanor, a big heart and incredible skills as a trial lawyer. One colleague also extolled his honesty and "ethical backbone," saying "he would never mislead the court or his opponent."

    But now an investigation that began shortly after his death has revealed that Gallagher's clients were owed almost $1.9 million, with his accounts able to cover only a fraction of it.

    Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer in May ordered the court-appointed trustee for Gallagher's practice, William J. Sweeney Jr. of New Britain, to distribute $300,000 that had been found in Gallagher's accounts. According to Fischer's order, it was anticipated that the trustee would be recovering additional funds. Sweeney said a total of about $500,000 has been recovered to date.

    When asked if his inquiry has revealed what happened with the remainder of the funds owed to clients, Sweeney said, "I don't know where the missing money went."

    The $300,000 was divided recently among 24 claimants, with most receiving their share in early June. The claimants additionally have all made claims to the Client Security Fund, Sweeney said, adding, "That is expected to make them whole."(1)

    The highest claim is the one involving Joseph and Cheryl Dee Soracco of Fairfield, who had an approved claim of $483,988.

    They were to receive just $77,705 under the pro-rated distribution. Of the 24 claimants, six were owed more than $100,000, court documents show.

    Attorney Jonathan Einhorn of New Haven represents two of the claimants. One man, who was paralyzed in a fall, is owed $258,701, but got $41,535 through the recent disbursement. In Einhorn's other case, a parent whose son was killed in a motorcycle accident is owed $150,121, but got $24,102, court documents show. "They both have claims in to the Client Security Fund, and I hope they will be fully compensated," Einhorn said.(2)

    Upon his death at age 76, Gallagher had been an attorney for 50 years. He was the sole proprietor of The Gallagher Law Firm in New Haven. During his career, he had served terms as president of the Connecticut Bar Association and the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association.

    "Bill was loved and respected by the bar, and I don't think anyone saw this coming," Einhorn said. "Where the money went—it is a mystery to everybody." ...
For more, see Probe Reveals Iconic Lawyer Owed Clients Nearly $2 Million.
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(1) The Client Security Fund is a fund established by the rules of the Connecticut Superior Court to provide reimbursement to individuals who have lost money or property as a result of the dishonest conduct of an attorney practicing law in the State of Connecticut, in the course of the attorney-client relationship. The fund provides a remedy for clients who are unable to obtain reimbursement for their loss from any other source. (Claim form JD-GC-15 - Application for Reimbursement - Client Security Fund)

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    When Lawyers Steal the Escrow, a June, 2005 New York Times story describing some cases of client reimbursements ("With real estate business surging and down-payment amounts rising with home prices, the temptation for a lawyer to filch money from a bulging escrow account and later repay it with other clients' money has never been greater, said lawyers who monitor the thefts."),

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.
For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

(2) Ibid.

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