Every year the Alabama Law Foundation announces its yearly IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Accounts) grants to programs committed to the foundation’s mission of making access to justice a reality for all of Alabama’s citizens. However, the foundation is facing a serious shortage of grant income.
IOLTA, the main source of funding, is determined by interest rates. The sixth year of record low rates on IOLTA have resulted in dramatic cuts in the 2014 grants. The Alabama Law Foundation is working to meet the shortage by a variety of on-going fundraising projects. The foundation decided to award available funding and assign additional resources at a later date.
As Alabama’s major grant maker for legal aid, the Alabama Law Foundation annually distributes at least 80 percent of its revenue to programs that provide legal aid to citizens who cannot afford an attorney and programs that improve the administration of justice.
Programs that provide legal services for the underserved collectively received IOLTA grants totaling $374,400.
The Alabama State Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program, which refers cases directly to lawyers in 64 counties and coordinates over 1,998 volunteers, received a $56,000 IOLTA grant.
The Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program, which refers cases to 1542 attorneys in the Birmingham area, received an $80,000 IOLTA grant.
The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama received a $40,000 grant to continue providing low-cost, quality legal and immigration services to low-income immigrants.
The Huntsville/Madison County Volunteer Lawyers Program works with 290 Lawyers and received a $32,000 grant.
Legal Services Alabama (LSA) provides legal aid to economically disadvantaged citizens throughout Alabama. LSA received a $50,000 grant.
The Montgomery County Volunteer Lawyers Program, which opened in 2013, works with 430 lawyers to meet the legal needs of low income clients in Montgomery County; they received a $14,000 grant.
The South Alabama Volunteer Lawyers Program refers cases directly to lawyers in Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, and Washington counties; they received a $54,400 grant.
The YWCA of Central Alabama received a $48,000 IOLTA grant to continue the “Justice on Wheels” program for victims of domestic violence.
The Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, the only grantee in the category of “Administration of Justice,” received IOLTA grants totaling $24,000.The EJI assists attorneys appointed to capital cases in the post-conviction stage and supplies some representation to indigent defendants.
In these times of economic hardship, many families in Alabama find themselves in need of legal services they cannot afford. Alabama Foundation President Tom Oliver explains that “the funding is at an all-time low, and yet there remains significant legal need.” The Alabama Law Foundation will continue to explore ways of raising grant revenue in order to fund legal aid programs and help build a stronger, more democratic society by making access to justice for all citizens in Alabama a reality.