Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 8, 1998 / 10 Tevet, 5758
IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
IOLTA -- AN ACRONYM for Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts -- is practically unknown outside of legal circles. (Attorneys are encouraged to keep their clients in the dark about the program.) On Jan. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on its constitutionality.
IOLTA is another way the Left uses government as a conduit to our wallets.
It started during the Reagan years. The coalition of activist lawyers who run the Legal Services Corporation worried that Reaganites would stop them from spending tax dollars to litigate for their pet political causes. They required a slush fund beyond the reach of voters to finance these operations.
Enter IOLTA. Lawyers hold sums of money for their clients (from real estate sales, insurance settlements and other transactions), usually for short periods. With the advent of NOW accounts, these funds began generating interest.
Under IOLTA (established by state courts or legislatures and now in operation in every state), lawyers are directed to pay the earnings periodically to foundations, which in turn make grants to groups that theoretically litigate for the poor.
As with Legal Services, under IOLTA, "poor" has developed an elastic definition that's stretched to cover lobbying for legislation thought to benefit the poor, like rent control, and issues not remotely related to poverty, like gay rights.
Nationwide, IOLTA generates $100 million a year. In 1991, the Boston Bar Foundation (a dispenser of IOLTA funds) explained: "IOLTA means that children will not become homeless, women and children will not be beaten, and elderly and disabled people will not be denied hard-earned Social Security benefits."
Also, apple pies will bake, the streets will ring with the laughter of children and the American flag will fly above the land of the free.
The reality of IOLTA is somewhat different. Because recipients aren't required to report their activities, much goes unnoticed. However, the following have been documented.
In 1992, when the city of Boston ordered its St. Patrick Day's parade to accept a contingent of homosexual marchers, litigation ensued. The gays were represented by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a recipient of IOLTA funding.
You will probably not go into coronary arrest on learning that the organizers, a veterans group, received no similar support. Represented pro bono by a sole practitioner, the veterans fought their way to the Supreme Court, which vindicated them.
In Washington state, Evergreen Legal Services successfully overturned a HUD regulation expediting the eviction of public housing tenants engaged in criminal activities. Apparently, law-abiding tenants aren't poor enough to merit its concern.
Texas Rural Legal Assistance successfully sued the state's colleges and universities to compel increased funding of schools along the Mexican border and challenged an at-large system of electing school board members, alleging it diluted minority voting strength.
The Massachusetts Disability Law Center (recipient of $134,000 in IOLTA funds) represented a Duxbury fireman who was discharged after bludgeoning his wife with a baseball bat. A court found him not guilty by reason of insanity, and the center got him reinstated in his job, with $20,000 back pay. What was that about IOLTA and abused women?
Charles E. Rounds Jr., a professor at Suffolk University Law School, tells the story of a Boston secretary earning $23,000 a year who bought a condominium that was occupied by an attorney. When the impoverished lawyer refused to vacate, she sought aid from several IOLTA recipients, who turned her away. One said it would never represent a "landlord." Rounds comments: "IOLTA is more about poverty politics than representing the poor. The politically incorrect need not apply."
On the Jan. 13, the Washington Legal Foundation will argue that IOLTA represents a taking of private property (interest on a clients' money) for public purposes without compensation, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. With advanced computer programs, interest in lawyers' trust accounts can be subaccounted to individual clients down to the last penny.
The Left are like roaches in ceaseless pursuit of our money. Chase them here (compulsory union dues, Legal Services appropriations, National Endowment for the Arts funding) and they pop up there.
Late last month, the mayor of Darby, Penn., was arrested for robbing a local bank. Unlike IOLTA, Daniel F. Devlin did it the old-fashioned way.
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state