- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Legal Aid wants the state’s lawyers to be required to contribute $100 annually to the charity, which represents people with low incomes.

Between 2008 and 2012, the organization has provided legal services for about 23,000 civil cases a year that largely deal with issues involving family, housing and consumer law.

But the group has had to lay off staff because it’s been facing funding cuts since 2010. It wants to hire more attorneys from money generated by the mandatory yearly fee, which could raise $903,400 of about $1.8 million needed.

“This doesn’t fix the problem, but it’s significant,” executive director Dennis Groenenboom said. “Not just in terms of how much it could raise, but the number of Iowans who would be impacted by it.”

The number of people eligible for the group’s services has increased by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2010 to 499,474, he said. Eight other states currently require attorneys to pay similar fees, including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Some lawyers say it’s wrong to require such mandatory contributions, even to a valuable organization that provides legal services in civil cases, The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1ByHy61 ) reported.

“Charity and donating to worthy causes, that should be a personal choice,” said Emily Alward, an Iowa City attorney. “… I don’t like being forced into supporting an organization, even if I do support them.”

Former Iowa State Bar Association President Joe Holland wrote in an open letter published online that other state-licensed professionals don’t face similar fees.

“In other professions, for example medical and dental, help is provided through donations of time, services and funds … not involuntarily extracted from members of the profession,” he wrote.

The Iowa Supreme Court is taking public comments on the proposal until Jan. 5.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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