Brown v. Legal Foundation of Wash., 538 U.S. 216, 6 (2003)

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Cite as: 538 U. S. 216 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

their own, but it is not unethical to pool several clients' funds in a single trust account. Before 1980 client funds were typically held in non-interest-bearing federally insured checking accounts. Because federal banking regulations in effect since the Great Depression prohibited banks from paying interest on checking accounts, the value of the use of the clients' money in such accounts inured to the banking institutions.

In 1980, Congress authorized federally insured banks to pay interest on a limited category of demand deposits referred to as "NOW accounts." See 87 Stat. 342, 12 U. S. C. 1832. This category includes deposits made by individuals and charitable organizations, but does not include those made by for-profit corporations or partnerships unless the deposits are made pursuant to a program under which charitable organizations have "the exclusive right to the interest." 1

In response to the change in federal law, Florida adopted the first IOLTA program in 1981 authorizing the use of NOW accounts for the deposit of client funds, and providing that all of the interest on such accounts be used for charitable purposes. Every State in the Nation and the District of Columbia have followed Florida's lead and adopted an IOLTA program, either through their legislatures or their highest courts.2 The result is that, whereas before 1980 the banks

1 Letter from Federal Reserve Board General Counsel Michael Bradfield to Donald Middlebrooks (Oct. 15, 1981), reprinted in Middlebrooks, The Interest on Trust Accounts Program: Mechanics of Its Operation, 56 Fla. B. J. 115, 117 (1982).

2 Five IOLTA programs were adopted by state legislatures. See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code Ann. 6211(a) (West 1990); Conn. Gen. Stat. 51-81c (Supp. 2002); Md. Bus. Occ. & Prof. Code Ann. 10-303 (2000); N. Y. Jud. Law 497 (West Supp. 2003); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 4705.09(A)(1) (Anderson 2000). The remaining programs are governed by rules adopted by the highest court in the State. See Ala. Rule Prof. Conduct 1.15(g) (1996); Alaska Rule Prof. Conduct 1.15(d) (2001); Ariz. Sup. Ct. Rule 44(c)(2) (2002); Ark. Rule Prof. Conduct 1.15(d)(2) (1987-2002); Colo. Rule


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