Lawyers’ Trust Accounts Board Helping to Secure Equal Access to Justice
Until 2003, the IOLTA Board’s single major source of revenue had been the collection of interest earned on IOLTA accounts. The following charts illustrate the various revenue sources currently administered by the IOLTA Board.
Revenue generated by IOLTA accounts is dependent upon the interest rates, service charges, and the principal amount of funds maintained in the IOLTA accounts. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania established the Minor Judiciary Interest on Trust Accounts (MJ-IOTA) program. All of the funds handled by the minor judiciary are IOLTA-qualified funds, that is, funds which are nominal in amount or held for a short period of time. All revenues generated by IOLTA and MJ-IOTA accounts combined are reflected in the chart above.
Act 122 of 2002, a section of which is known as the Access to Justice Act (AJA), provides for a $2 surcharge on all civil filings, as well as the recording of deeds and mortgages and their related filings, and criminal filings where a conviction or a guilty plea is obtained. The fee surcharge is scheduled to sunset on November 1, 2017.
Act 49 of 2009 provides for a $1 supplemental increase in the AJA filing fee surcharge on a slightly different base of court filings. Act 113 of 2014 increased the fee to $2 and made it permanent.
Effective September 4, 2007, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania established an admission fee applicable to each out-of-state attorney entering an appearance in a Pennsylvania Court. Effective September 24, 2010, the admission fee increased from $100 to $200 per case and subsequently increased to $375 effective June 12, 2015.
Effective April 2, 2009, Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 was amended to increase the annual attorney registration fee assessment by $25, with the increased amount dedicated to help fund civil legal aid for the poor. For years 2011-2012 through 2014-2015, the Court increased by $10 the amount of each attorney’s registration fee directed to the PA IOLTA Board’s mission. The Court reduced the temporary increase to $5 for years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.
Effective July 1, 2012, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania amended Rule of Civil Procedure 1716 to provide that at least 50% of residual funds in class action lawsuits in Pennsylvania Courts be directed to the PA IOLTA Board to help fund civil legal aid for the poor.
Act 70 of 2012, the Homeowner Assistance Settlement Act (“HASA”), related to the settlement agreement between the Attorney General of the Commonwealth and the leading mortgage serving companies, allocated $900,000 for year 2012-2013, $600,000 for years 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, and $337,000 for year 2016-2017 for civil legal assistance related to housing issues.
The IOLTA Board receives voluntary contributions from lawyers. From 2002 to 2016, these contributions funded the establishment or expansion of organized pro bono representation for indigent Pennsylvania residents by lawyers in private practice. Effective December 1, 2016, these contributions have been redirected toward the state-wide and specialized legal services grants.