by Miles McGrane
“The First Duty of Society Is Justice”. Those words were penned by Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s early architects and author of many of the Federalist papers.
Helping to ensure Hamilton’s vision that all of our citizens deserve the opportunity to be heard and pursue justice in this great land is the mission of The Florida Bar Foundation, the only statewide organization that provides financial support for legal aid, that promotes improvements in how we address the civil legal needs of the poor and provides project support to help make the court system more responsive to the needs of the people it’s pledged to serve. To do that takes time, effort, and—of course—money.
Today, thousands of low-income Floridians are trying to deal with difficult legal problems alone. For them, access to justice often is elusive or, worse, unattainable. But the problems they face are real:
• The disabled veteran who can’t buy food if he doesn’t get his disability check.
• The elderly widow who is losing her home because she is a victim of mortgage fraud.
• The abused child who deserves a safe and loving place to live.
As lawyers, we know that a helping hand—especially from a lawyer—can truly change someone’s life. For decades, your Foundation has funded programs across the state to extend that hand by providing the leadership and funding necessary to assist our legal system to work for all Floridians.
But even with more than 90,000 legal problems solved each year by Foundation grantees, three out of four of the most needy Floridians have important legal needs that are going unmet. While the bulk of the Foundation revenue is generated through the IOTA program, the money available to meet these ever-increasing needs is shrinking. Annual IOTA revenue grew from $3.5 million as a voluntary program to $19.4 million in 1990-91, the first full year of the mandatory program.
Drops in bank interest rates, however, have taken their toll over the years. IOTA revenue this year is projected to be only $11.3 million.
That’s one reason the Foundation has recently revved up its efforts to increase The Florida Bar Foundation Endowment Trust. Established in 1991, the Trust—a 501(c)(3) charitable entity—is a fund in which all principal, including gift additions, is maintained as permanent investment with income supporting Foundation grants and programs.
You can demonstrate your commitment to the value of justice by becoming a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow by simply pledging a tax-deductible gift of $1,000 that is payable over five years or less. Additions to the endowment help enhance the Foundation’s revenue and secure the future of the Foundation’s charitable programs.
Your gift, combined with gifts from others and guided by the Foundation’s knowledge and leadership, maximizes your return on investment and increases your impact.
I hope you will join me in helping fulfill Alexander Hamilton’s admonition that for the country to flourish, justice must indeed be society’s first duty.
To learn more about becoming a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow, contact the Foundation by calling (800) 541-2195 or visit www.flabarfndn.org to download a fellows brochure and pledge form.
Today is a great day to be a Florida lawyer. I am proud to be one. You should be too.