TBA Asks Court to Boost Legal Aid Funding - Articles

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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Nov 25, 2008

Proposal is part of association's “4 ALL” access to justice campaign

NASHVILLE, Nov. 25, 2008 — The lawyer’s program that provides funding for legal services for the poor by drawing interest on idle client trust funds would get a significant boost under a proposal filed Monday with the Tennessee Supreme Court. The proposal, made jointly by the Tennessee Bar Foundation, which administers the program; the Tennessee Bar Association, representing 10,000 Tennessee lawyers; the Tennessee Association for Justice; and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services asks the court to require lawyers to participate in the Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program by placing client funds that cannot earn interest, because they are either too small or expected to be held for a short duration, in accounts that pay interest to the foundation.

Tennessee lawyers have voluntarily participated in the IOLTA program since 1985 and the program has produced more than $14 million for legal aid and other programs.

Tennessee would join 38 other states that have mandated participation by lawyers in such programs and would join some 23 other states that have enhanced the provisions requiring banks to treat such accounts on parity with other similarly situated accounts. These twin moves in other states have boosted funding by a minimum of 25 percent, with some states doubling or tripling the amount of funds going to legal aid programs.

“We believe this is a very important initiative that will, in time, produce critically needed additional grant money for the cause of equal access to justice. At a time when so many of our fellow citizens are in dire need of legal assistance, we hope the court will act favorably on our proposal,” said TBA President Buck Lewis, a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC.

President Lewis’ access to justice campaign, called “4ALL,” is a multi-faceted yearlong effort to enhance access to justice for Tennesseans who cannot afford legal representation. Additional information on the 4 ALL campaign is available at www.tba.org/4ALL.