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How to File a Claim with the Client Security Commission

What is the Client Security Trust Fund?

The Client Security Trust Fund was established by the Supreme Court of Iowa at the request of The Iowa State Bar Association. It provides for reimbursement by the legal profession in general for losses caused to the public in those few cases in which lawyers betray their client's trust and misappropriate funds.

Each lawyer licensed to practice in the state of Iowa contributes to the Fund. Iowa lawyers believe that the public has a right to hold their profession accountable for certain actions involving dishonest conduct on the part of a lawyer.

The Client Security Commission is empowered to examine lawyer misconduct and breaches of the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct and to generally administer and operate the Client Security Trust Fund. The commission consists of five members who are attorneys in Iowa and two residents of Iowa who are not lawyers, all of whom are appointed by the Supreme Court.

What Types of Losses are Reimbursable?

The Client Security Trust Fund covers most situations in which lawyers have taken their client’s money or property. The Fund does not cover losses suffered by a client resulting from the negligence of an attorney in the handling of the case. Such matters may be reported to the Attorney Disciplinary Board of the Iowa Supreme Court. These matters may also be pursued by the client through the filing of a claim with the attorney's malpractice insurance provider, or by a malpractice suit against the attorney in question.

Matters involving a dispute about the amount of a lawyer's charges should be referred to the Iowa State Bar Association for arbitration. The Iowa State Bar Association Fee Arbitration Service may be reached at (515) 243-3179.

Filing a Claim for Reimbursement

Client Security Claim Forms (PDF) for filing a claim may be either downloaded or obtained from:

Client Security Commission
Judicial Branch Building
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Note: It is not necessary to hire a lawyer to help you make the claim.

There is no fee to submit a claim to the Client Security Trust Fund. Fill out the form as completely as possible and return it as directed. You should keep a copy of the completed form for your records. If you attach evidence or documents to the form when you send it to the commission, be sure to keep copies of those for your files. Except for unusual or extenuating circumstances, claims made to the commission must be filed within one year after you discover the loss.

The staff of the Client Security Commission will investigate each case and claim filed. The staff may contact the person who filed the claim for more information and will contact the lawyer against whom the complaint has been filed. If the claim is found to be eligible for reimbursement under the rules, the claim will be presented to the commission for consideration and decision.

If a claim is determined not to be reimbursable, no further action or investigation will be taken, but a report is made to the commission. The Client Security Commission sends a written explanation of its decision to each person who makes an application or claim for reimbursement. Payment of a claim is subject to the Iowa Supreme Court Rules.

If a claim is approved, the person will be notified of the amount of money to be reimbursed. The  Commission determines the amount of any payment. The maximum which any one client may recover is established by Iowa Supreme Court Rules.

What Limitations are there on Client Security Claims?

The Commission shall consider for payment all claims resulting from the dishonest conduct of a lawyer licensed to practice law in Iowa acting as an attorney or a fiduciary, provided that: 

  • The claim arises out of the practice of law.
  • The alleged defalcation occurred after January 1, 1974.
  • The claim is made within one year after the client's discovery of the loss. However, in unusual circumstances this time limitation may be extended by the commission for good cause.
  • The claim is made directly by or on behalf of the client or the client's personal representative or, if a corporation, by or on behalf of itself or its successors in interest.
  • The commission is satisfied there is no other source or collateral source for the reimbursement of the loss.
  • Claims shall not be made that arise out of employer-employee relationship as distinguished from a lawyer-client relationship or a fiduciary relationship.

The commission has full authority to determine whether the claim merits reimbursement from the fund and if so, the amount of such reimbursement and any conditions attached to reimbursement. When determining the amount of the reimbursement the commission must consider many factors such as the amount of money available in the fund, the degree of hardship suffered by the claimant, the losses of other claimants and the degree of negligence, if any, which may have contributed to the loss. No claimant or any other person or organization shall have any right in the fund as a third party beneficiary or otherwise. The claimant does not need to be represented by counsel before the commission.  

For more information, please contact:

Client Security Commission 
Judicial Branch Building 
1111 East Court Avenue 
Des Moines, Iowa  50319 

(515) 725-8029 
client.security@iowacourts.gov

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