Center for Civic Values

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Thursday, 30 Oct 2014

Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program

Blindfolded Lady JusticeThe Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program is an idea that originated in British, Canadian and Australian jurisdictions in the 1960s. In the US, IOLTA was pioneered in Florida and now exists in every state in the country. The New Mexico IOLTA program was created by the State Supreme Court in 1984, and was a voluntary program until April 1, 2002, when it was converted to opt-out.

Effective January 1, 2009, New Mexico's IOLTA program was converted again - this time to mandatory with a comparability requirement, the details of which are described in full in Rule 24-109. It requires that all New Mexico attorneys who hold IOLTA eligible funds participate in IOLTA and that the funds be held at Eligible Financial Institutions. Compliance and enforcement are described in Rule 17-204.

Through IOLTA, attorneys and law firms place IOLTA-eligible client funds in a pooled interest-bearing trust account.  The interest is remitted to the Center for Civic Values and is distributed at the direction of the Court to provide free civil legal assistance to the poor. To enroll in IOLTA, please refer to the Enrollment section. To learn more about compliance, see the Attorney and Law Firm Guide to Mandatory IOLTA.

Annual grant allocations are based on the recommendations of the Access to Justice grant committee. More than $5.4 million has been awarded since the program's inception, and IOLTA has long been one of the largest non-governmental entities funding civil legal services for poor people in the state. Learn more about IOLTA grants.

Equal justice under law . . . is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. . .It is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.

-Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.