Banking on Justice
November is Texas IOLTA Prime Partner Bank Month
By Betty Balli Torres, Executive Director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation
In 1984, the Supreme Court of Texas created the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program as a means of providing funds for legal aid. For many years, the system worked as it was intended, and played a major role in the funding of the state’s legal aid system.
Fast-forward 29 years and the picture has changed drastically. Due to historically low interest rates, the revenue generated from the program has plummeted. As a result, low-income Texans are forced to face serious, complicated and sometimes life-threatening civil legal issues on their own.
In 2007, IOLTA revenue was $20 million; in 2013, it is projected to total only $3.6 million—a decline of more than 80 percent.
More than 5.7 million Texans qualify for legal aid, and many are turned away due to a lack of resources. The decline in IOLTA revenue has resulted in a crisis in access to the justice system for low-income and poor Texans.
Fortunately, more than 70 Texas banks have helped to address the problem by becoming Prime Partner banks. Prime Partner banks voluntarily pay higher interest rates on IOLTA accounts, helping close the gap in funding. These banks increased IOLTA revenue by millions throughout Texas. In November, we recognize the important role of these banks during Prime Partner Bank recognition month.
In Dallas, Addison, Frisco & Plano area Prime Partner banks include:
- American Momentum Bank
- Bank of the Ozarks
- Collin Bank
- F & M Bank & Trust Co.
- First National Bank Southwest
- LegacyTexas Bank
- PlainsCapital Bank
- Preston State Bank
- Share Plus Federal Bank
- Southwestern National Bank
- Texas Security Bank
- Town North Bank
Funds from the Prime Partner program help the Texas Access to Justice Foundation provide assistance to Texas families seeking justice for an abused child, receiving health benefits for an elderly person, or getting a family back in their home when faced with a foreclosure or eviction.
The Prime Partner program needs help from the legal community to keep up the momentum. You can:
· Bank with a Prime Partner bank to strengthen the program and encourage additional banks to join the cause.
· Thank your local Prime Partner bank for their assistance in helping low-income Texans and join the “I Bank of Justice”campaign to highlight your support.
· A more direct way to help is to contact eligible banks and ask them to join the Prime Partner program. Visit the Texas Access to Justice Foundation website at www.teajf.org to see a list of eligible banks and to learn how to recruit new Prime Partners.
With the support of the legal community, we’ll continue to close the gap in funding for legal aid. Banking with a Prime Partner is banking on justice.