Expanding access to civil legal services in Wisconsin.

WisTAF

OUR MISSION

The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation Inc. (WisTAF) is dedicated to equal access to the civil justice system, funding legal services for low-income persons through the fair and effective administration of Interest On Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA), Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF), and other sources.

Grants

The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc. (WisTAF) is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Wisconsin. Established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1986, WisTAF helps ensure that low-income people with non-criminal legal problems have access to the legal advice and representation they need.


Sources of Grants

Over the past quarter of a century, WisTAF has granted over $50 million to organizations working toward the Foundation’s vision of equal access to justice, regardless of income. When available, WisTAF administers and makes grants utilizing the following funds:

Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program
The IOLTA program allows attorneys to pool short-term or nominal deposits made on behalf of clients or third parties into one account. The interest generated by these accounts is remitted to WisTAF for use in grantmaking. The commitment of financial institutions to the communities they serve is reflected in their participation in the IOLTA program. In addition to paying competitive interest rates on lawyers’ trust accounts, many financial institutions have chosen to waive fees on IOLTA accounts, resulting in a direct increase in the dollars available to help fund legal services. To date, IOLTA funding has resulted in over $31 million in grant awards for dozens of Wisconsin’s civil legal service providers.

Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF)
In 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court established the Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF) in response to the state’s growing need for civil legal services and to supplement IOLTA funding with a more stable revenue source. PILSF funds are directly attributable to Wisconsin’s attorneys and judges, and are distributed throughout the ten state judicial districts. Since its inception, PILSF funds have helped low-income people in all Wisconsin counties.

Cy Pres
Cy pres is a legal doctrine which commonly refers to residual funds left over from a class action lawsuit, but can also refer to funds from restitution, settlements, or penalties. Occasionally, courts designate WisTAF to receive such settlement agreement residual funds to use in making grants supporting civil legal services.

Pro Hac Vice
In 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court amended the “pro hac vice rule” – increasing the fee paid by nonresident lawyers to participate in a particular action (with an active member of the State Bar of Wisconsin). The Court directed that a portion of the fee increase be allocated to WisTAF to help support provision of civil legal services to low-income and indigent persons.

State Appropriation Funding
On occasion, the Wisconsin State Budget has included an appropriation of state funds made by a state agency to WisTAF to be granted out to providers of civil legal services to low-income Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund, Inc.
WisTAF is honored to disperse annual grants funded by the Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund, Inc. (WEJF) – a nonprofit agency formed by attorneys to help increase funding for Wisconsin’s civil legal services programs. Individual attorneys, law firms, Wisconsin corporations and non-attorney individuals support WEJF’s members through donations and the annual Howard B. Eisenberg Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner in Milwaukee. To date, over $2.2 million has been raised via this important source and granted to civil legal service providers across Wisconsin.


WisTAF Mission and Grantmaking Philosophy
The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc. (WisTAF) is dedicated to equal access to the civil justice system, funding legal services for low-income persons through the fair and effective administration of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF) and other sources.

In furtherance of this mission, the WisTAF Board of Directors annually awards grants to a broad array of publicly and privately funded agencies which provide civil legal services to low-income clients. WisTAF funds programs that address the particular needs and problems of various indigent groups, different geographical regions and special areas of public concern. Agency diversity, in terms of structure, service delivery methods, and sources of funds, is recognized and valued. As such, WisTAF sponsors agencies that provide free legal services as well as those which charge reduced fees for services, consistent with its position that there is room for both models in addressing the needs of Wisconsin’s low income population. WisTAF will not allocate grant funds to organizations to be used for criminal representation.

The WisTAF Board believes that effective funding of grants can take place only in a climate free from political bias and outside interference. WisTAF strongly encourages the cooperation and collaboration of its grantees, and will continue to be guided by these principles as it awards future grants.

Finally, the WisTAF Board reserves the right to change procedures and priorities for the grants program as community needs are identified and as resources change.


Grant Awards
In 2016, WisTAF distributed over $1.4 million to 22 agencies providing civil legal services across Wisconsin. 2016 grants included $933,250 from the Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF), $45,000 from Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA), $450,000 in Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Civil Legal Services State Appropriation funds, and $22,770 in pro hac vice funds. WisTAF also was honored to disburse $120,000 on behalf of the Wisconsin Equal Justice Foundation.


Grant Applications
If you are a civil legal service provider interested in applying for a grant, visit our Applications page. If you currently receive WisTAF funding, and are looking for grant reporting forms or information, please see the Administrative forms page.

For more information about grants or the grantsmaking process, contact Rebecca Murray, Program Manager.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & EVENTS
WHAT'S NEW
Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts - Fondo Legal de Emergencia
Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund
2017 Direct Legal Services Grantee Mid-Year Report Materials Now Available
Now Available: WisTAF 2018 Direct Legal Services Grant Application Materials
WisTAF 2016-17 DVSA Civil Legal Services State Appropriation Grant Annual Report Materials Now Available

More...

PRIME PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

A Prime Partner member of the Wisconsin IOLTA program since 2010, Mound City Bank strives to be the most admired community bank in the State of Wisconsin. Mound City Bank goes above and beyond IOLTA participation requirements by paying additional interest on its clients' IOLTA accounts - helping to expand access to civil legal services in Wisconsin.


Contact us
WisTAF
825 Williamson Street, Suite A, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608.257.6845 or 877.749.5045 (toll-free)
Email: service@wistaf.org

Board & Staff
WisTAF
Board of Directors
WisTAF
De Ette Tomlinson, Executive Director
WisTAF
Rebecca Murray, Assistant Director
WisTAF
Tehmina Islam, Program Assistant

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