IOLTA Supreme Court grants
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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 accounts.

"There 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.