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State Bar Association to Reimburse Client Losses

December 12, 2018

(OKLAHOMA CITY – Dec. 12, 2018) The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Clients’ Security Fund will pay more than $120,000 to seven people who lost money or other property from the dishonest conduct of their attorney.  The association is reimbursing money to the clients of four deceased or former lawyers whose actions led to the losses.

OBA President Kimberly Hays of Tulsa said, “Most Oklahoma attorneys maintain good relationships with their clients, and clients need to have full confidence in their legal representatives. Sadly, the reputation of every lawyer suffers when a very small number of attorneys engage in unethical or illegal behavior. This fund enables us to restore faith in our profession’s integrity by returning lost money to those who have been harmed by the actions of a few.”

Claims result when an attorney misappropriates client funds or property, is disbarred or dies, and there is no other source for compensation or recovery.  The OBA’s Clients’ Security Fund Committee reviews client claims and annually makes recommendations to the OBA Board of Governors on the merits of those claims.  Committee Chair Micheal Salem of Norman said claims typically arise when these former attorneys become unstable as a result of a personal crisis, substance abuse or illness and fail to follow Bar Rules of Professional Conduct regarding the safeguarding of client funds or property.

“The committee’s purpose is to assist those who’ve been victimized by the dishonest actions of the very few former lawyers who have misappropriated client funds or property,” Salem said. “The public must rely upon the faithful actions of their attorneys and the committee and Board of Governors take the issue of client trust in their lawyers very seriously. When a lawyer betrays that trust by taking client funds or property, our purpose is to rebuild confidence in our profession by fairly compensating these victims.”

Claims to be paid this year total $120,350.41. Hays said all active Oklahoma lawyers contribute to the fund through a portion of their annual bar dues, and more than $2.8 million in reimbursements has been paid to clients since the fund was created in 1965.

Former or deceased attorneys for whom the OBA will be paying claims, the individuals to be compensated for their losses and the reimbursement amounts are:

Deceased attorney Johnny Albert, Oklahoma City; clients Eldon Thomas, Oklahoma City, $10,000; Kersi Bharucha, Oklahoma City, $30,000; David Pace, Oakdale, California, $7,000; and James Scott, Ninnekah, $7,000

Former attorney James Menzer, Blackwell; client Sherry Little, Blackwell, $2,385

Former attorney Jeffrey Nachimson, Oklahoma City; client Brian Berry, Edmond, $20,000

Deceased attorney William F. Raynolds, Tulsa; client Larry Butler, Luther, $43,965.41.

More information about the Clients’ Security Fund can be found on the OBA’s website.

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