Mandatory assessment for Iowa Legal Aid? Two perspectives.
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A Letter from the President

There has been a lot of discussion in the last year or two about the reduced funding sources for Iowa Legal Aid. The ISBA supports a new Pro Hac Vice fee of $250 per case and a stronger lobbying effort both here in Iowa and in Washington, D.C., to raise more funds to provide civil legal services for low-income Iowans. Some say that these efforts are inadequate and that Iowa should now join the ranks of those few state licensing boards that have adopted mandatory assessments requiring most licensed lawyers and judges to pay into a fund to support these legal services.

At the request of Iowa Legal Aid, a proposal is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court that would require a mandatory assessment of $100 per attorney per year. As your president, my duty is to ensure you receive this information so you have the opportunity to file your comments with the court.

Two of our accomplished members have graciously agreed to share their opinions on this subject. I want to publicly thank both Art and Joe for helping us present both sides to this issue. Please see their letters below:

Supporting View
Opposing View

Arthur A. Neu - Carroll

Partner in the firm of Neu, Minnich, Comito & Neu, P.C.; has served as a state senator, lieutenant governor and as a member of the Board of Regents.

C. Joseph Holland - Iowa City

Currently practicing in the firm of Holland Law Office, P.L.C.; served on our Board of Governors and also served as president of the ISBA in 2001-02; served on many different boards including the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the Iowa Council of School Board Attorneys.

Why lawyers? Why do we need to give $100 per year to provide legal help to low-income Iowans? Perhaps why the Iowa Supreme Court has asked for comments on this fee is that we, as lawyers, have a special responsibility for the quality of justice. Our rules of professional conduct urge us to do so. Unrepresented parties negatively impact the quality of justice, not just for themselves, but for others involved in the judicial system. This contribution to support access to justice will improve the system for lawyers, our clients and for all Iowans.

Iowa Legal Aid and the Volunteer Lawyers Projects in Iowa provide critical legal assistance to low-income Iowans that ensures they are treated fairly. Iowa Legal Aid and the volunteer lawyers to whom it refers cases handled 18,127 cases …

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For those of you who may not know, a proposal is before the Iowa Supreme Court to assess every Iowa licensed attorney a $100 annual fee to fund Iowa Legal Aid. The deadline for submitting written comments to the court is 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2015. This is not an ISBA proposal and ISBA has not taken a position in favor of this proposal. Iowa Legal Aid took the request to the court.

I believe in Iowa Legal Aid. My firm and I have donated time and money in support of its mission. I have lobbied, in person, members of both the Iowa Legislature and the United States Congress, for support for Legal Aid on state and national levels. However, I see court imposed funding for Legal Aid as unacceptable for many reasons. Here are a few….

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The court wants to measure the temperature of the bar on this issue and has requested that you make your comments known, either by mailing them to the court or filing your comments electronically at The email must state, "Access to Justice,” in the subject line and the comments must be attached to the email in Microsoft Word format.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your president.

Joseph M. Feller
President, The Iowa State Bar Association
P.O. Box 37
Sibley, Iowa 51249

Iowa Supreme Court Resources:
Request for Public Comment Regarding Access to Justice Recommendations (Oct. 1).