Litigation

Cal. Litig. 2023, Volume 36, Issue 2

WHAT’S NEXT WITH THE CLIENT TRUST ACCOUNTING PROTECTION PROGRAM?

Written by Erin Joyce*

As every California lawyer knows, the State Bar implemented the Client Trust Account Protection Program (CTAPP) as a direct response to the Girardi fiasco, where more than 100 disciplinary complaints, mainly from clients who alleged mishandling of client funds, were closed without action. The compliance deadline for the first year was extended to April 3, 2023, for all licensees to complete the 12-question self-assessment and certify full compliance with CTAPP. The goal of revisions to the trust accounting rules and the new oversight mechanisms is to further protect the public, guarantee some degree of accountability, create more transparency, and to ensure attorneys take their trust accounting responsibilities seriously.

The first phase of CTAPP was to require all licensees to register their trust accounts with the State Bar through their State Bar profiles. New State Bar rules 2.2 and 2.5 also require that when any trust account is opened or closed, the licensee must report the change through the attorney’s State Bar profile within 30 days of the change. That has posed a problem up until now, since the State Bar has not fully built out the new trust account sections of licensee State Bar profiles to allow these changes to be reported online. At this point a letter to the State Bar would be the only practical way an attorney can comply with the reporting requirement.

Now that all California trust accounts have been registered, the second phase will begin. But the timing of these audits or compliance reviews is uncertain. New Rule of Court 9.8.5 requires that all licensees annually certify compliance with CTAPP. Specifically, "[a]ll licensees must annually report whether or not they are responsible for client funds and funds entrusted by others under the provisions of rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and if they are responsible then they must certify that they are knowledgeable about, and in compliance with, applicable rules and statutes governing client trust accounts and the safekeeping of funds entrusted by clients and others." Any attorney who failed to certify compliance with rule 1.15 by the extended April 3, 2023 deadline faces both administrative and potentially disciplinary penalties.

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