Last week, I reported on plans to raid Connecticut's Client Security Fund. I wondered whether the judiciary would do something to prevent what amounted to a theft. Apparently, the ink has already dried on legislation seizing the funds. Should the judicial branch fight this transfer, it will now do so in an effort to have money returned, and to prevent future raids in years to come.
Gov. Jodi Rell's budget called for seizure of these monies as part of her deficit reduction plan. Never mind that the money was held in trust. Never mind that the funds are under the control of the judicial branch. Never mind that the monies do not come from the general fund. The governor wanted cash, and she wanted it quick. The Legislature obliged the governor.
Late last week, lawmakers amended a bill, adding language to seize the funds. The very next day, the bill moves immediately to the House floor, where it is passed without any public comment whatsoever. A simple wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Early in the morning on the very next day, the Senate approves the measure, again without debate or public comment.
This was as graceful as a gunpoint stick up at an ATM.
The Client Security Fund is generated by an assessment 0n lawyers administered by the judicial branch. The fund is governed by a volunteer board. Funds are to be used to reimburse clients who have been defrauded by lawyers and to assist lawyers who succumb to drug and alcohol abuse. These are not monies generated by the legislative or executive branch. The monies are held in trust.
Apparently, this is just the beginning. The legislation permits immediate seizure of $2 million, with an invitation to come raid the fund again when the coffers are bare.
I am told that heads are spinning in the judiciary. They ought to be. But we need more than spinning heads. How about litigation designed to challenge whether the executive and legislative branches really have the power to steal? I understand lawmakers have the power to tax. But this is something new, and something dangerous.