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SJC Rules Unidentified IOLTA Funds Must Be Transferred to IOLTA Committee

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that unidentified IOLTA funds do not fall under the state’s abandoned property statute and must be transferred to the IOLTA Committee for disposition. The decision, in the Matter of Gregory M. Olchowski, clarifies for attorneys what had been a disputed area: whether to remit unidentified funds to the IOLTA Committee or to the State Treasurer as abandoned property under G.L.C. 200A.

The decision, which was authored by the late Chief Justice Ralph Gants in one of his final acts, will benefit programs providing civil legal services to low-income and elderly Massachusetts residents. IOLTA funds are distributed to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Foundations to support civil legal services and access to justice initiatives.

“In a year filled with loss and injustice, this decision is a ray of hope,” said MA IOLTA Committee Chair, Hannah Kilson. “In finding that the principal in an IOLTA account is not subject to the abandoned property statute, the SJC is rightly exercising its superintendence authority over the practice of law. The decision provides lawyers with the necessary guidance on how to address the issue of unidentifiable IOLTA funds while providing underfunded legal services programs with a small but badly needed source of additional funding.”

Jayne Tyrrell, Executive Director of the IOLTA Committee, added, “The IOLTA Committee is pleased with the court’s decision and looks forward to working with the Rules Committee to amend Rule 1.15 as ordered by the Court.”

Massachusetts Bar Association applauds IOLTA funds decision – read more in Mass Bar eJournal.

BBA Hails Olchowski Decision, on Unidentified IOLTA Funds, as a Win for Access to Justice – read more from the Boston Bar Association.