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Supreme Court Approves Grants to Support Civil Legal Services for Low-Income Iowans

May 30, 2017

Des Moines, May 30, 2017—The Iowa Supreme Court has approved $240,101 in grants to nonprofit programs that provide legal assistance to low-income Iowans with civil legal problems. The court awarded grants to fourteen different organizations throughout Iowa. The grants are funded by the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account (IOLTA) program. With this year's grants, the supreme court has awarded more than $24.6 million in IOLTA grants since the program began on July 1, 1985.

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.

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.

The following grants will be awarded for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and ending June 30, 2018:

Iowa Legal Aid—$145,657.60

For legal staff in Iowa Legal Aid regional offices for an established program of civil case assistance to low-income Iowans (service area: statewide).

Muscatine Legal Services—$6,994.00

For legal staff to maintain an existing program of civil legal assistance to low-income residents (service area: Muscatine County).

Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project—$31,656.40

For staff for volunteer lawyer referral service in Polk County serving the low-income community (service area: Polk County).

Civil Legal Assistance Fund, Second Judicial District—$6,121.60

Funds civil legal assistance to low-income fathers, mothers, or children involved in dissolution of marriage or modification cases in which other legal assistance is not available (service area: Second Judicial District).

Know Your Constitution Committee of the Young Lawyers Division, The Iowa State Bar Association—$1,954.00

Funds for the Know Your Constitution Program, which provides education to Iowa high school students about the United States Constitution (service area: statewide).

Clinical Law Program, Drake University Law School and University of Iowa College of Law Legal Clinics—$8,876.80

Funds to continue the Poverty Law Internship Program, a clinical law program in which upper level law students intern with legal assistance providers throughout the state (service area: statewide).

Iowa Legal Aid—$21,196.00

For legal staff support to continue the Legal Hotline for Older Iowans (service area: statewide).

Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors—$6,121.60

Funds legal services to low-income immigrants involved in removal proceedings or other immigration-law matters (service area: statewide).

Kids First Law Center—$3,294.40

Funds legal services to children in high-conflict divorce and custody cases when their parents cannot afford counsel for them (service area: Linn and Johnson counties).

Appanoose County Bar Association—$3,110.80

Funds civil legal assistance for economically disadvantaged individuals in the Appanoose County and Monroe County areas (Service area: Appanoose and Monroe counties).

Civil Legal Assistance Fund, Third Judicial District—$6,121.60

Funds civil legal assistance to low-income fathers, mothers, or children involved in dissolution of marriage or modification cases in which other legal assistance is not available (service area: Third Judicial District).

In addition, the supreme court approved $1,846,719 in grant funding for funds obtained as part of an August 2014 U.S. Department of Justice $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America and its former and current subsidiaries, including Countrywide Financial Corporation and Merrill Lynch. The settlement resolved civil investigations relating to residential mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and practices concerning the underwriting and origination of loans. More than $30 million of the settlement was allocated to IOLTA programs in the U.S. for foreclosure prevention programs and community redevelopment legal services.

The following grants will be awarded for a two year period beginning the fiscal year of July 1, 2017, and ending June 30, 2019:

Iowa Legal Aid Foreclosure Prevention Project—$300,000

For a project providing community outreach to educate targeted communities about the foreclosure processes and other services which would be of benefit to individuals dealing with a foreclosure situation. (service area: statewide).

Muscatine Legal Services—$30,000

For a project focusing on informing the public of the risks of foreclosure and providing legal services regarding debt restructuring and negotiations with mortgage companies when facing foreclosure. (service area: Muscatine County).

Drake University Law School Redevelopment and Entrepreneurial Legal Clinic—$500,000

For a project to support business development and revitalize neighborhoods by providing legal educational resources, direct legal representation, and legal advocacy services aimed directly at business and community-based nonprofit organizations. (service area: Polk Count).

Iowa Legal Aid Race Equity Project—$100,000

For a project providing legal assistance in expungement issues and other employment barriers which have arisen from criminal justice involvement (service area: Polk, Black Hawk, Scott and Dubuque counties).

Iowa Legal Aid Community Economic Development Project—$500,000

For a project providing legal services to low-income individuals seeking to start and run local businesses (service area: statewide).

Iowa Legal Aid Community Stabilization Project—$186,719

For a project providing early intervention in housing issues (service area: Waterloo, Council Bluffs, Des Moines).

Iowa Legal Aid Immigration Stabilization Project—$200,000

For a project implementing a state wide immigrant legal services hotline for immigrants and refugees seeking legal assistance (service area: statewide).

For More Information:

Nicholas (Tré) Critelli, III, Director, Office of Professional Regulation, (515) 725-8029 

Office of Professional Regulation 
1111 East Court Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50319 

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