TexasBar.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2012
Contact: Kimberly Schmitt, kschmitt@teajf.org
512-320-0099 x 104 or cell 512-944-4021

Texas Access to Justice Foundation Presents Prime Partner Awards to Two Amarillo-Area Banks

Amarillo, Texas - The Texas Access to Justice Foundation awarded two Amarillo-area banking institutions - Amarillo National Bank and Happy State Bank - with the Prime Partner Award for their outstanding contributions to civil legal services. Executives of each bank received the award during a special presentation held in conjunction with the 60th anniversary celebration of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas on Thursday, March 8, in Amarillo.

The recognized banks have participated in the state’s Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program and have been designated as Prime Partners - institutions that go above and beyond by paying one percent interest on IOLTA accounts. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation receives a significant amount of funding from IOLTA accounts and uses the funds for grants to legal aid service providers across Texas. Prime Partner banks, which pay interest at higher rates on IOLTA accounts compared to other banks, have a direct, positive impact on the amount of money available to help low-income Texans with their civil legal issues.

Bank representatives in attendance included:  Lizzie Mason, Public Relations Director, Amarillo National Bank; and David Norris, Chief Financial Officer, Happy State Bank.

“With more than six million Texans who qualify for legal aid, it is crucial that legal aid service providers have the resources they need to supply quality legal assistance to those who desperately need it,” Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Foundation, said. “Through the efforts of our Prime Partner Banks, we continue to significantly increase the Foundation’s ability to aid low-income Texans seeking protection from devastating domestic violence, assistance with housing and foreclosure issues, access to earned benefits and other basic civil matters.”

Amarillo-area legal aid organizations that receive funding from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation include Disability Rights Texas (formerly known as Advocacy, Inc.), and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.

In 2007, The Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s IOLTA revenue was more than $20 million, but due to historically low interest rates, that figure has decline by nearly 75 percent according to 2012 projections.  By paying higher interest rates, Prime Partner banks help mitigate the decline in funds available for legal aid organizations. 

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 120,000 Texas families each year.