The Iowa Supreme Court has approved more than $211,638 in
grants to non-profit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income
Iowans with civil legal problems. The court awarded grants to 15 different
organizations throughout Iowa. The grants are funded by the Interest on
Lawyers' Trust Account (IOLTA) program. Over the last 30 years, the supreme
court has awarded more than $24.2 million in IOLTA grants since the program
began on July 1, 1985.
"IOLTA grants help support important legal services
such as the legal hotline for older Iowans and legal services for young Iowans
who are victims of sexual assault," Chief Justice Mark Cady said.
"Unfortunately, many legal service organizations have suffered severe
decreases in state and federal funding. At the same time, demand for civil
legal assistance is increasing."
IOLTA grant funds are generated entirely from interest
earned on certain pooled trust accounts held by Iowa lawyers. Lawyers
practicing law in Iowa are required by court order to deposit clients' funds
the lawyers hold in interest-bearing accounts. When the funds involved are so
small in amount or held for such a brief period of time that it is not possible
for the funds to economically benefit the individual client, court rules
require that lawyers deposit the funds in pooled interest-bearing trust
will probably not be IOLTA receipts as high as those in 2009 or 2010 until the
Federal Reserve raises interest rates,” said Paul H. Wieck II, director of the
Office of Professional Regulation, Iowa Judicial Branch. "Even then, it will
take time for the Federal Reserve’s action to be reflected in the interest
rates paid on Iowa trust account balances.”
The IOLTA program is managed by a seven-member commission
that reviews grant applications and then makes award recommendations to the
supreme court. In the 30-year history of the IOLTA program, the supreme court
has awarded most of the grants to organizations that assist low-income Iowans
with civil legal problems such as divorce, domestic abuse, unsafe housing, and
illegal evictions. The court has also presented grants to law-related education
projects. IOLTA grants do not support criminal legal defense.
For more information about this year’s grants, click here.