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End-of-life notice: American Legal Ethics Library

As of March 1, 2013, the Legal Information Institute is no longer maintaining the information in the American Legal Ethics Library. It is no longer possible for us to maintain it at a level of completeness and accuracy given its staffing needs. It is very possible that we will revive it at a future time. At this point, it is in need of a complete technological renovation and reworking of the "correspondent firm" model which successfully sustained it for many years.

Many people have contributed time and effort to the project over the years, and we would like to thank them. In particular, Roger Cramton and Peter Martin not only conceived ALEL but gave much of their own labor to it. We are also grateful to Brad Wendel for his editorial contributions, to Brian Toohey and all at Jones Day for their efforts, and to all of our correspondents and contributors. Thank you.

We regret any inconvenience.

Some portions of the collection may already be severely out of date, so please be cautious in your use of this material.


Connecticut Legal Ethics

1.15   Rule 1.15 Safekeeping Property

1.15:100   Comparative Analysis of Connecticut Rule

Primary Connecticut References: CT Rule 1.15
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.15, Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:
Connecticut Commentary:

1.15:101      Model Rule Comparison

Sections (a) through (c) of Conn. Rule 1.15 are identical to Model Rule 1.15. However, Conn. Rule 1.15 contains section (d), which Model Rule 1.15 does not contain. Conn. Rule 1.15(d) directs a lawyer to participate in a statutory program for the use of interest earned on lawyers' clients' funds accounts to provide funding for the delivery of legal services to the poor by nonprofit corporations whose principle purpose is providing legal services to the poor and law school scholarships based on financial need, in compliance with seven provision.

1.15:102      Model Code Comparison

With regard to Conn. Rule 1.15(a), DR 9-102(A) provided that "funds of clients" are to be kept in an identifiable bank account in the state in which the lawyer's office is situated. DR 9-102(B)(2) provided that a lawyer shall "identify and label securities and properties of a client ... and place them in ... safekeeping...." DR 9-102(B)(3) required that a lawyer "[m]aintain complete records of all funds, securities, and other properties of a client...." Conn. Rule 1.15(a) extends these requirements to property of a third person that is in the lawyer's possession in connection with the representation.

Conn. Rule 1.15(b) is substantially similar to DR 9-102(B)(1), (3) and (4).

Conn. Rule 1.15(c) is similar to DR 9-102(A)(2), except that the requirement regarding disputes applies to property concerning which an interest is claimed by a third person as well as by a client.

1.15:110      Connecticut IOLTA Plan

1.15:120      Connecticut Client Security Fund

1.15:200   Safeguarding and Safekeeping Property

Primary Connecticut References: CT Rule 1.15(a)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.15(a), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:
Connecticut Commentary:

1.15:210      Status of Fee Advances [see also 1.5:420]

Commentary to Conn. Rule 1.15 indicates that in any case involving a disputed legal fee, "[t]he disputed portion of the funds should be kept in trust and the lawyer should suggest means for prompt resolution of the dispute." In Braunstein v. Statewide Grievance Committee, 1997 L 684885, *3 (Conn. Super. Oct. 24, 1997), the plaintiff violated CT Rule 1.15 when he appropriated a disputed fee from real estate closing proceeds, even though the parties anticipated that the fee would be paid from such proceeds.

1.15:220      Surrendering Possession of Property

In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Shea, 2001 WL 1284479, at *2 (Conn. Super. Oct. 10, 2001), the court held that by accepting personal property from a client and selling the property without the client's approval, after indicating in her retainer agreement that it was to be held in escrow, the respondent violated Conn. Rules 1.8 and 1.15.

1.15:230      Documents Relating to Representation

Failure to put a contingent fee agreement in writing constituted a violation of Conn. Rule 1.15(c). Statewide Grievance Committee v. Timbers, 2000 WL 1198009, at *3 (Conn. Super. Aug. 2, 2000). A contingent fee agreement must also state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages of the recovery that shall accrue to the lawyer as a fee and failure to do so is a violation of Conn. Rule 1.15. Statewide Grievance Committee v. Dixon, 1999 WL 124195, at *2 (Conn. Super. Dec. 7, 1999), affirmed, 62 Conn. App. 507 772 A.2d 160 (2001).

Conn. Rule 1.15 requires a lawyer to keep complete records of clients' account funds. In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Douglas-Bailey, 1998 WL 846094, at *2 (Conn. Super. Nov. 12, 1998), the court held that the respondent-attorney's failure to produce information requested by subpoena for a hearing violated Conn. Rule 1.15. Failure to produce such exculpating information prevented the Committee from complying with its judicially mandated duty to ensure that there was no problem with the firm's clients' funds.

Conn. Rule 1.15 states that "upon request by the client," the lawyer must "promptly render a full accounting" regarding the client's property. In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Timbers, 1996 WL 745846, *1 (Conn. Super. Dec. 18, 1996), the defendant's client was awarded $15,000 and he agreed that the defendant could retain $250 in escrow in order to cover the defendant's out-of-pocket disbursements. The client attempted to obtain an accounting regarding the status of his escrow money for over a year and a half, and did not receive such an accounting until after he filed a grievance against the defendant.

1.15:300   Holding Money as a Fiduciary for the Benefit of Clients or Third Parties

Primary Connecticut References: CT Rule 1.15(b)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.15(b), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:
Connecticut Commentary:

The court in Statewide Grievance Committee v. Lafferty, 2000 WL 1474880, at *1 (Conn. Super. Sept. 1, 2000) held that the respondent-attorney violated Conn. Rule 1.15 when he withheld funds from the settlement for payment of the client's medical bills and did not pay the medical bills in a timely manner.

In Prue v. Statewide Grievance Committee, 44 Conn. Supp. 348, 690 A.2d 898 (1995), the court denied plaintiff's appeal from the reprimand issued by the defendant. Records indicated that the plaintiff-attorney settled a personal injury action for his client. Out of that settlement, he deducted attorney's fees and costs and retained (in escrow) funds to pay a no-fault lien and doctor/hospital bills. The balance was then paid to the client. However, the plaintiff negotiated with the no-fault insurance carrier to pay the outstanding medical bills and the escrowed funds from the settlement proceeds were never used to pay the medical providers, nor were they paid to the client. These actions violated Conn. Rule 1.15.

Misappropriation

Conn. Rule 1.15 prohibits a lawyer from using client funds for any unauthorized purpose. In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Baldwin, 2001 WL 1560895, at *4 (Conn. Super. Nov. 13, 2001), the court suspended the respondent from the practice of law after it found that checks he wrote to his minor daughter, to his American Express account and to himself from his client's trust account, without documenting the propriety of those disbursements, evidenced a misappropriation and/or commingling of client funds in violation of Conn. Rule 1.15.

In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Schafferi, 1996 WL 383376, *1 (Conn. Super. June 17, 1996), the court held that respondent violated Conn. Rule 1.15 by failing to properly maintain client's funds in his trust account and by converting funds to his own use by withdrawing upon his client's funds upon expectation that funds would forthcoming from another source.

Commingling

Conn. Rule 1.15 prohibits the commingling of client's funds or property with an attorney's personal funds or property. "[T]he prohibition against commingling has been applied equally to situations where the lawyer was holding funds of the client or funds of a third person who was not a client." Statewide Grievance Committee v. Ross, 1996 WL 626293, *7 (Conn. Super. Oct. 18, 1996).

The court suspended an attorney from the practice of law for three years after it found that he repeatedly used his client's trust account to pay bills on behalf of other clients and then used other funds to reimburse the account. Statewide Grievance Committee v. McGee, 2000 WL 1474791, at *1 (Conn. Super. Sept. 20, 2000).

In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Terzis, 1998 WL 712365, *1 (Conn. Super. Sept. 24, 1998), the court found that over a 22-month period, the respondent used funds from his client's account to pay seven electric bills for his residence and seventeen electric bills for his office. In rejecting the respondent's argument that he was too wealthy and successful to commit such acts, the court held that he misappropriated client's funds in violation of Conn. Rule 1.15.

1.15:400   Dispute Over Lawyer's Entitlement to Funds Held in Trust

Primary Connecticut References: CT Rule 1.15(c)
Background References: ABA Model Rule 1.15(c), Other Jurisdictions
Commentary:
Connecticut Commentary:

Pursuant to Conn. Rule 1.5(e), a division of fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may only be made if the client is advised and does not object to the compensation sharing agreement and if the total fee is reasonable. In Statewide Grievance Committee v. Dixon, 1999 WL 124195, at *2 (Conn. Super. Dec. 7, 1999), the court held that a lawyer who split attorneys fees with another lawyer, without the knowledge or consent of his client, violated Conn. Rule 1.15.