CHARLESTON – West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard on Monday presented Bar Foundation grants to programs that provide legal services to low-income West Virginians.
The Bar Foundation is the philanthropic organization for West Virginia's legal profession and justice system.
The grant funds are from the IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Account) Program. Since the program began in July 1990 it has generated more than $12 million for legal services for low-income West Virginians. The program is a joint project of the Bar Foundation, the West Virginia State Bar, the West Virginia Bankers Association and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
A total of $161,000 was awarded Monday.
Grants were given to Legal Aid of West Virginia, $102,637; and Mountain State Justice, $34,213. Special grants were given to Court Appointed Special Advocates, $10,502; Senior Legal Aid Program, $5,828; West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest, $4,661; Appalachian Center for Law, $1,865; and ChildLaw Services, $1,294.
The grants were awarded during a press conference in the Supreme Court Chamber led by Bar Foundation Vice President Carl Harris.
Maynard joked that the members of the Supreme Court don't always agree, but "one thing we unanimously and heartily agree on" is the importance of the IOLTA fund.
He recalled that when he was a circuit judge in Mingo County, there was a case involving an elderly man who was the victim of abuse by a relative. Williamson attorney Jane Moran, who worked with AppalReD, learned about it and found the man a new home.
"That's the kind of thing the IOLTA fund is all about," Maynard said.
On behalf of the Court, "We wish to commend the lawyers and financial institutions of West Virginia. We can be pleased we are working together to assist our low income men, women and children with their civil legal cases," Maynard said.
"The Court is also very pleased that we have been able to assist with the special funding for the clerkships at the West Virginia University College of Law, with the Court Appointed Special Advocate Programs that have been initiated in various parts of the state, with the senior citizens program and with services to assist our abused and neglected children. These special funds help these important programs," Maynard said.
State Bar President Steven Johnston Knopp said, "This is a very important mission that we are about.
"We sometimes forget as lawyers that we serve our community. ... We serve our entire community," Knopp said. The funds help "people who simply can't afford to compete in the legal arena."
Charles R. "Skip" Hageboeck, president of City Holding Company, representing the West Virginia Bankers Association, thanked Chief Justice Maynard for his leadership on the Supreme Court.
Since he moved to West Virginia in 2001, Hageboeck said, "West Virginia has made extraordinary progress in improving its business climate. The Supreme Court of West Virginia has been an active participant in these changes."
The Bankers Association is made up of about 90 banks throughout the state. More than 90 percent of those are currently participating in the IOLTA program. Others would participate if a lawyer or law office would place an account with them, Hageboeck said.
"It is a significant accomplishment that so many different banks in all areas of the state are participating in this fantastic program, and it demonstrates the commitment of our financial institutions to the well-being of our citizens," Hageboeck said.