News Release

Texas Access to Justice Foundation
January 27, 2012

Statement from Richard L. Tate, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, on News Regarding the Hold on Low Interest Rates and the Effect on Legal Aid Programs

(Austin, TX) The following statement was issued today by Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board of directors:

“The Federal Reserve announced this week a pledge to hold interest rates at the historic low range of 0% - 0.25% until late 2014.   The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), the largest state funding source of civil legal aid in Texas, relies heavily on the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program to help fund basic civil legal needs in our state.   This program pools funds from lawyers’ trust accounts that are small, or held for a short period of time, into one account in which the interest funds legal services for the thousands of disadvantaged Texans.

IOLTA revenues for funding legal aid have been declining dramatically since the interest rate cut began in 2008.   In 2007, the IOLTA Program was generating $20 million, and this year we anticipate IOLTA will only generate less than $4 million – a decline of more than 75 percent that will impact struggling Texans in need of basic civil legal servcies.

As the poverty population has increased, the number of Texans who now qualify for legal aid exceeds six million, with the expectation that number will increase.  The continued decline in IOLTA revenue, along with other federal cuts to legal aid, will directly affect the thousands of families who desperately seek representation in cases like those involving child abuse, domestic violence, foreclosures, needs of senior citizens and benefits to veterans.   

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, along with our partners in the access to justice community, will continue our work in finding solutions for funding legal aid at the national, state, and local levels as our traditional sources for revenue decline.  We will continue to support the attorneys providing pro bono services and those making private donations, along with our partners in the banking industry who support our efforts by paying higher interest on IOLTA accounts.  We will also continue to inform lawyers and the public about the critical need for legal services and the role of the rule of law in these difficult economic times.”

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The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 120,000 Texans each year.

 


 

 

 

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