HARTFORD (CN) – The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted 37-0 Friday to return the $2 million it snatched from the Bar Association’s Client Security Fund to help balance Connecticut’s $8 billion budget deficit. The Committee acted just four days after the Bar filed a class action in Superior Court to block the money grab.
The Bar said snitching the money would violate separation of powers. The Client Security Fund contains no tax money but it is wholly funded by attorneys. It 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,” state 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 Legislature voted in February to snatch the money. But McDonald said last week, “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 disbursing,” McDonald said.
State Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, agreed.
“The funds simply shouldn’t have been moved,” Lawlor said. “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.”
The Connecticut Legislature’s Judiciary Committee includes members from both houses.