CY PRES AWARDS: They Can Help Vulnerable Iowans and the Justice System
If you are involved in a class action or other litigation and are unable to distribute all of the funds, consider Iowa Legal Aid as a cy pres recipient. When a cy pres award is channeled to Iowa Legal Aid, you can rest assured that the funds will be used in a manner consistent with the intent of the award. Iowa Legal Aid makes a significant difference in the lives of low-income Iowans who need legal assistance with critical issues including safety, shelter, income, consumer and end of life planning issues.
What are cy pres awards?
Cy pres awards are final surplus funds in class-action cases, and sometimes other types of court proceedings, that for any number of reasons cannot be distributed to class members or beneficiaries who were the intended recipients. Cy pres distribution of surplus funds is utilized when it has become difficult or impossible to identify those to whom damages should be assigned or distributed. In these instances, the court may authorize a cy pres distribution to appropriate charitable organizations. The trust doctrine of cy pres and the courts’ broad equitable powers permit use of such funds for public interest purposes by educational, charitable and other public service organizations. Cy pres funds may be used to support current programs or, where appropriate, to constitute an endowment and source of future income for long-range programs that can be used in conjunction with other contemporaneously raised funds.
How cy pres makes a difference.
Throughout the country, cy pres awards (ranging from thousands to millions of dollars) have been utilized to fund vital civil legal services.
Cy pres awards can be used to fund special projects or operational costs for legal aid organizations. When funding operational costs, it allows legal aid programs to provide desperately needed basic civil legal services in their communities.
The legal community has a special responsibility to ensure all Iowans have meaningful access to justice, and cy pres awards can make a substantial contribution toward that effort.
Examples of cy pres awards and projects funded.
In 2008, Iowa Legal Aid received a $43,500 cy pres award that was recommended to the Court by Lane & Waterman LLP, and their colleagues, Brad Brady of Brady & O’Shea in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Jason Adkins of Adkins, Kelston & Zavez, P.C. in Boston, Massachusetts, and Daniel Bacine of Barrack, Rodos & Bacine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the Rieff, et al. v. Evans, et al. case. This cy pres award was used to support Iowa Legal Aid’s newly formed Foreclosure Defense Project and allowed Iowa Legal Aid to develop legal education materials for people about how to assess long-term care options, Medicare Part D insurance, and other insurance related issues that were posted on Iowa Legal Aid’s website, printed for distribution, and distributed at community legal education presentations, largely by Iowa Legal Aid’s Hotline for Older Iowans which provides educational services, advice, brief service, and referral to Iowans age 60 and over.
Although not exactly a cy pres award, another example of the way in which litigation can result in funds being made available for civil legal services for low-income Iowans is the settlement of the litigation involving Microsoft. As a result of the efforts of Roxanne Conlin, a $1 million award was designated to provide assistance to domestic violence survivors.
There are examples of cy pres awards in other states including:
- In Texas, a cy pres award was used to fund a major initiative aimed at increasing legal resources available online at www.TexasLawHelp.org. With the award, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation partnered with the Travis County Law Library to develop legal information and self-help forms related to issues facing low-income Texans, as well as implement a broad-based public education campaign statewide.
- In early 2008, the California Bar Foundation received a $102,000 cy pres award resulting from a consumer rights class action settlement in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. With the funds, the Foundation has awarded grants to four nonprofit organizations working for the protection of consumer rights in Santa Clara County.
- The Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland received $911,000 of a $2.4 million cy pres award distributed by a county court to legal organizations throughout Maryland and in Washington, D.C. The funds were left over from a decade-old class-action lawsuit involving late fees on cell phone bills.
How can you help?
If you are involved in a class action or other litigation and are unable to distribute all of the funds, consider Iowa Legal Aid as a cy pres recipient. When a cy pres award is channeled to Iowa Legal Aid, you can rest assured that the funds will be used in a manner consistent with the intent of the award. Iowa Legal Aid makes a significant difference in the lives of low-income Iowans who need legal assistance with critical issues including safety, shelter, income, consumer and end of life planning issues. Iowa Legal Aid closes approximately 22,000 cases annually, helping a projected 54,000 persons, of whom 23,000 are children.
For more information about Iowa Legal Aid or Iowa Legal Aid’s ability to utilize cy pres awards, contact:
Iowa Legal Aid
1111 9th Street, Suite 230
Des Moines, Iowa 50314-2527
515-243-2980, Ext. 1620