1,700 CT Attys Suspended Over $110 Bill
In a payment enforcement mechanism that some see as draconian, the Client Security Fund in the state of Connecticut has slapped 1,700 lawyers with an administrative suspension for failing to pay a $110 annual fee.
The “striking” number of suspensions includes all lawyers who haven’t paid the fee during any year dating back to 1999, and doesn’t represent any sudden surge in delinquencies, reports New York Lawyer (reg. req.), in a reprint of an article from the Connecticut Law Tribune. It appears that the issue, at least for many lawyers, resulted from overlooking a relatively small bill rather than intentionally ignoring a bar payment obligation.
And, although “suspension” invokes a disciplinary aura, these are administrative suspensions that shouldn’t have an adverse effect on the lawyers’ careers, says Christopher Blanchard, a fund staff attorney. “It’s not considered a disciplinary action. But according to the Practice Book, they can’t practice law while under administrative suspension.”
However, at least one local lawyer is crying foul. “You can’t define suspension as meaningless because people read it as meaningful,” says James Bergenn, a partner in the Hartford office of Shipman & Goodwin who is active in bar associations and has served on grievance panels. “Let’s not create new and false grounds to question our integrity,” he urged, decrying the suspensions as a policy “designed to humiliate and hurt” the attorneys targeted.
Bergenn called for a more creative approach to the problem, such as setting up an automatic electronic payment system, or doubling the fee for those who don’t pay on time. There are, he says, an “untold number of ways to enforce payment without characterizing someone as suspended from the practice of law.”