October 1st, 2013, News from Florida Bar Foundation

The Florida Bar Foundation provides leadership and funding for justice

As lawyers we share a commitment to justice. The Florida Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, turns that commitment into action through its funding of programs that provide access to justice for Floridians living in poverty. Through our support of The Florida Bar Foundation, we can demonstrate our belief that the justice system works best when it works for everyone – regardless of his or her economic status.

Locally, The Florida Bar Foundation is a vital funding source for Dade Legal Aid. Through its Administration of Justice Grant Program, the Foundation also helps fund special projects and initiatives across the state such as the Innocence Project of Florida, which has succeeded in exonerating 13 wrongfully imprisoned Floridians using DNA evidence since 2003, as well as the Florida Law Related Education Association, which teaches Florida students about democracy and the American legal system.

If you visit the Foundation’s website at www.floridabarfoundation.org, you will be impressed with the number and diversity of the grantees assisted by the Foundation.

Since 1981, the primary source of funding for The Florida Bar Foundation has been Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program, which has enabled the Foundation to provide about a third of the total funding for civil legal aid organizations in Florida. Over the past 32 years, Florida’s IOTA Program has distributed more than $425 million to help hundreds of thousands of poor people receive critically needed free civil legal assistance throughout Florida.

The Foundation also funds initiatives such as salary supplementation and loan repayment programs that help attract and retain legal aid attorneys. The salary supplementation grant for the Dade Legal Aid was $195,250 in 2012-13.

In recent years, because of the impact of extremely low interest rates on IOTA revenue, the Foundation has had to drastically reduce its grants. Whereas in 2010, Dade Legal Aid received a Foundation general support grant of $553,446 to provide legal services, as well as a $103,000Foundation grant specifically for Children’s Legal Services, in 2013 those grant amounts were $251,818 and $44,973, respectively. Overall, Foundation funding is now about a quarter of overall legal aid funding statewide.

Please take a few minutes to learn more about The Florida Bar Foundation, an organization in which all of us, as Florida attorneys, can take tremendous pride, and one that brings critical resources back to our community. If you have questions about the Foundation, feel free to ask me or one of my fellow Florida Bar Foundation board members from Miami-Dade County, Damian Thomas, Yara Lorenzo, or First Vice President Julio Jaramillo.

 

David Rothman

Florida Bar Foundation Board Member

Past President, Dade County Bar Association