For the Public
Supreme Court Rule 55
(1) PURPOSE. The purposes of the Public Protection Fund are to provide a public service and to promote public confidence in the administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession by providing some measure of reimbursement to victims who have lost money or property caused by the defalcation of lawyers admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction occurring in New Hampshire and in the course of the client-lawyer or fiduciary relationship between the lawyer and the claimant.
(2) ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FUND. The New Hampshire Bar Association shall provide a Public Protection Fund establishing a reimbursement mechanism for proven losses resulting from embezzlement, conversion, or theft of client funds by lawyers, and for this purpose, the court shall annually assess a sum to be paid by all dues-paying members of the New Hampshire Bar Association, except those members exempted by order of the court. The Public Protection Fund shall be administered by the New Hampshire Bar Association. Subject to the review and approval of the court, the committee established pursuant to paragraph (5) shall determine the terms, conditions, claims procedures, scope of coverage, cost, and funding mechanisms for such Public Protection Fund, consistent with this rule. The Public Protection Fund is provided as a public service to persons utilizing legal services; the establishment, administration and operation of the Public Protection Fund shall not impose or create any obligation on, expectation of recovery from, or liability of the New Hampshire Bar Association, its officers, governors, members, staff, or members of the Public Protection Fund committee. No claimant shall have a legal interest in the fund nor have a right to receive any portion except as awarded pursuant to this rule.
(3) CLAIMS AGAINST THE FUND. Claims for payment from the fund shall be submitted in writing, under oath, and shall explain specifically the defalcations which led to the losses in question. Such claims must be submitted within three years of the time when the victim discovered or first reasonably should have discovered the defalcations and the resulting losses, but in no event later than one year after the lawyer in question has been suspended or disbarred from practice, or has died or been judged mentally incompetent before the suspension or disbarment proceedings have been commenced or concluded.
(4) PAYMENTS FROM THE FUND. Payments from the fund will be made only after the lawyer in question has been suspended or disbarred from practice; or if the lawyer has died or been judged mentally incompetent before the suspension or disbarment proceedings have been commenced or concluded. As a condition of payment from the fund, the claimant shall execute a subrogation agreement in favor of the fund against the offending lawyer and the offending lawyer's law firm and against third parties to the extent of the amount recovered by claimant from the fund. Payments from the fund shall be made only after exhaustion of all available assets, insurance, and sureties of the offending lawyer and the offending lawyer's law firm. Payments from the fund shall be made only to victims who have lost money or property as the result of the defalcation of the lawyer, and no payments shall be made to any assignee, subrogee, or successor of such victim. The heirs or legatees of deceased victims may be eligible for payment from the fund. Except with respect to claims where the amount determined by the committee to be due the claimant is less than $2,500, payments from the fund shall be made only at the end of each fund year. Except with respect to claims where the amount determined by the committee to be due the claimant is less than $2,500, payments from the fund with respect to an individual lawyer shall not be made until all claims have been finalized with respect to that lawyer. The maximum amount of reimbursement to all claimants against the fund in respect to all conduct of any one lawyer shall be $250,000 in the aggregate. In determining whether the maximum reimbursement described in the immediately preceding sentence (but not the sentence immediately following this sentence) has been reached, claims where the amount determined by the committee to be due the claimant is less than $2,500 shall be excluded from the calculation. The maximum amount of reimbursement to any one claimant, or all claimants, against the fund in any fund year as defined in paragraph (6) shall be $250,000 and $1,000,000, respectively, in the aggregate. The maximum amount which may be paid on a claim shall be the dollar value of the money or property lost by lawyer defalcation and shall not include interest on the amount lost or money spent attempting to collect the loss. If payable claims against a lawyer exceed $250,000, then all payable claims against that lawyer, except claims where the amount determined by the committee to be due the claimant is less than $2,500, shall be reduced in proportion to their relative value in order to reduce total payments as a result of that lawyer's conduct to $250,000. If payable claims in a single fund year exceed $1,000,000, then all payable claims for that fund year shall be reduced in proportion to their relative value in order to reduce total payments for that year to $1,000,000. That portion of payable claims excluded from payment by reason of the dollar limitations described in this section shall not be paid in any subsequent fund year.
(5) ADMINISTRATION OF THE FUND. The Public Protection Fund shall be administered by a nine member committee, appointed by the President of the New Hampshire Bar Association with the approval of the association's Board of Governors, which committee shall include at least two public members. Five members shall constitute a quorum. All decisions of the committee shall be made by a majority of the members present and voting. The committee shall have the power to propose regulations to clarify the intent of this rule, which regulations shall become effective after review and approval by the court. Decisions of the committee as to whether or not to pay claims and the amount of payments shall be within the committee's discretion, subject to the annual limits stated above, and will be reviewable only for unsustainable exercise of discretion. The committee shall give the offending lawyer notice of the claim and an opportunity to be heard regarding the claim, and the findings of fact and rulings of law made by the committee on the claim shall be binding upon the offending lawyer in all subsequent proceedings to which the Public Protection Fund is a party, including, but not limited to, proceedings against the offending lawyer to recover monies paid by the fund to the claimant. Review of a decision of the committee shall be filed with the New Hampshire Supreme Court within thirty days of the date of the committee's decision, by filing a written appeal in accordance with Rule 10, unless otherwise ordered by the court. The appeal shall not be a mandatory appeal. In the event that review of a decision of the committee is sought, a copy of the appeal shall be mailed or hand-delivered to the New Hampshire Bar Association at the same time as the appeal is filed with the supreme court. If the New Hampshire Bar Association wishes to participate in the review of the decision, it shall file an appearance in the matter within thirty (30) days of receipt of the appeal. Decisions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court shall be final. Within 120 days after the end of each fund year, the New Hampshire Bar Association shall report to the court about the claims made, approved and paid, assessments received, income earned, and expenses incurred in the preceding fund year. Reasonable expenses incurred by the New Hampshire Bar Association in administering the fund, including overhead, staff time, and professional fees, shall be reimbursed by the fund as a cost of operation, subject to the review and approval of the court.
(6) EFFECTIVE DATE. This rule shall take effect on June 1, 1998, and payments from the fund shall be made only for defalcations occurring on or after that date. Fund years shall run from June 1 to May 31. Provided, however, that the provisions increasing the maximum amount to $250,000 and the provisions regarding claims of less than $2,500 shall apply only for defalcations occurring on or after January 1, 2010.