Rule 18 - Confidentiality
- Claims, proceedings and reports involving claims for reimbursement are confidential until the Board authorizes reimbursement to the claimant, except as provided below, unless provided otherwise by law. After payment of the reimbursement, the Board shall publicize the nature of the claim, the amount of reimbursement, and the name of the lawyer. The name and the address of the claimant shall not be publicized by the Board unless specific permission has been granted by the claimant.
- This rule shall not be construed to deny access to relevant information by professional discipline agencies or other law enforcement authorities as the Board shall authorize, or the release of statistical information that does not disclose the identity of the lawyer or the parties, or the use of such information as is necessary to pursue the Fund’s subrogation rights under Rule 16.
The need to protect wrongly accused lawyers and to preserve the independence of the Board’s deliberations should be balanced with the strong public interest in protecting legal consumers and promoting public confidence in the administration of justice.
Publication of awards by the Board demonstrates the legal profession's responsiveness to clients and its commitment to self-regulation. Responsible public information programs are essential to achieving the purposes of the Fund. The public, bar, and judicial leaders, and the news media should be kept informed of the activities of the Board and the status of its reimbursement efforts.
The Board must also be sensitive to the privacy concerns of claimants, and of the constitutional rights of lawyers who may be the subject of criminal proceedings. Deferring publicity may therefore be appropriate where there is a pending criminal prosecution against a lawyer. Securing a claimant's consent to the release of information concerning a claimant's loss and reimbursement may also be a desirable practice, particularly for a voluntary fund which may not be protected by the immunity that is afforded a court-established Fund under Rule 9.
It is within the discretion of the Board to determine which public agencies should be provided access to claim files. Lawyer discipline, law enforcement, and agencies considering nominations to public offices may have a legitimate need for information contained in the Fund’s records that would otherwise be confidential.
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