HARTFORD (CN) – The Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut legislature voted 37 to 0 Friday in favor of returning the $2 million it snatched in February from the state bar’s client security fund, with a committee member saying the decision “was really a matter of principle.”
The Judiciary Committee was prompted to take action on the matter just four days after the Connecticut Bar Association filed a class action lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court seeking an injunction to stop the transfer of funds. The Bar says the money grab violates the separation of powers. The Client Security Fund is used to help victims of dishonest lawyers, and to help lawyers with substance abuse or gambling problems.
“This is really a matter of principle,” Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Friday. “The legislature should not be injecting itself into the unique oversight responsibilities of the Judicial Branch, especially with a program that is doing so much good.”
The Connecticut legislature voted in favor of taking the funds in February, as it sought to close a more than $8 billion budget deficit.
“These are not public tax dollars we are trying to recoup, nor is this money that the legislature typically has any oversight over or voice in dispersing,” McDonald said.
“The funds simply shouldn’t have been moved,” Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman Judiciary Committee, said Friday. “The money comes from fees paid by all licensed lawyers in the state intended for one specific purpose. To raid it for reasons not related to its intention would be wrong, and I am glad that in a bipartisan manner we worked today to fix that.”
Lawlor is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven and McDonald is litigation partner with Pullman & Comley in Stamford.