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The Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyer Trust Account Board has increased by 117 percent to $11.75 million the grants scheduled for legal service organizations, law schools and pro bono applicants for 2004-05. The grant total for 2003-04 was $5.41 million, significantly less than 2002-03′s $7.1 million. The drop in funding was attributed mostly to declining interest rates. This year’s total grant amount has increased over last year’s largely because “this is the first year we’ve seen significant effects of the Access to Justice Act,” said David Lehman, chairman of the IOLTA Board. This year, the AJA program was able to counter the negative impact of falling interest rates. Created by the state Legislature and implemented in November 2002, the AJA takes a percentage of the $10 surcharge placed on court filings. During the first year the AJA was in effect, that amount was $1 out of every $10 surcharge. In the AJA’s second year, that amount had risen to $1.50 and in its fourth year, the amount will peak at $2 per surcharge. The funding act will no longer be instituted after five years. This year’s general legal services grant total is $8.5 million, with $6.98 million coming from the Access to Justice Act grant fund and the remaining $1.52 million awarded as the General IOLTA Grant. The Pennsylvania Legal Services will disburse the $8.5 million to legal service programs across the state for assistance to low-income residents. Samuel Milkes, executive director of PLS, said that more than 90 percent of the grant would go to the six statewide regional legal services programs. “Those six regions cover legal aid in the entire state,” Milkes said. Grants will also be distributed to six specialty programs across the state. Topping the grant list under the specialized services and projects category is Friends of Farmworkers, which received $260,000. This amount is up from last year’s $170,000. The Philadelphia Bar Foundation, while not on the list of grantees, advises the IOLTA Board, Lehman said. “There is a very close working relationship with the Philadelphia Bar Foundation,” Lehman said. “We informally collaborate with them in considering the Philadelphia area givings.” Alfred Azen, executive director of IOLTA, said that last year IOLTA faced a crisis when the organization’s cash reserve never materialized and the Supreme Court granted an extraordinary one-time funding transfer of $1.4 million to help IOLTA out of the crisis. “The court essentially helped us reestablish our reserve for next year,” Azen said. The grant process starts when applications are submitted to the IOLTA board, which reviews the applications and submits recommendations to the Supreme Court, where the distribution of the grants is approved. At this point, only some minor adjustments may still be made to the funding. The IOLTA program was started in 1988 to raise money for nonprofit civil legal services. While the program started on a voluntary basis, in 1996 the Supreme Court made the program mandatory. Included in this year’s IOLTA grants are seven Pennsylvania law schools that will each receive $200,000. The law schools are Dickinson School of Law, Duquesne University, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Villanova University and Widener University. Eight pro bono applicants will also receive a total of $54,700.

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