Jon Campisi Mar. 18, 2013, 8:30am

A Harrisburg attorney has been tapped by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve as

the second-ever executive director of the Interest on Lawyers Trust Account board, the high court recently announced.

Stephanie S. Libhart will replace the board’s first executive director, Al Azen, who retired in December 2012 after 23 years in the position.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts made the announcement with regard to Libhart’s appointment.

The Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, or IOLTA for short, allows Pennsylvania lawyers to raise money to provide civil legal services to the state’s poor and disadvantaged residents.

The program, which is run by a nine-member board appointed by the state’s high court, was established in 1988 as a voluntary program, but became mandatory eight years later when it fell under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Here’s how IOLTA works: given that clients often transfer money to attorneys to hold, if the monetary amount is large, or if the funds will be held for an extended period of time, the lawyers invest the funds for the client’s benefit.

If the funds are small or expected to be held for a short period of time, however, investing for the benefit of the client is not practical.

In those cases, the attorneys are required to invest in interest-bearing IOLTA accounts, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Upon approval by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, the board distributes the IOLTA funds raised to nonprofit groups and organizations, law school-administered clinics, and administration of justice projects that provide civil legal services to the needy.

As for Libhart, the Harrisburg-area lawyer is an honor society graduate of Bloomsburg University and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who holds a master’s degree in Studies in Law.

Libhart, whose appointment was effective March 6, has served as IOLTA’s assistant executive director since 2008.

Before joining IOLTA, Libhart worked for the Judicial Automation Department at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, and before that she worked in the governmental relations department of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

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