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Foundation President’s Message



Keeping the Lights On
Michael R. McElroy, Esq.
President of the Rhode Island Bar Foundation

Through immediate intervention by the RI Center for Justice, his utility service was restored and he was able to move back into his home.

Did you know that since 1989, through the continuing generosity of the family of Thomas F. Black, Jr., and the Champlin Foundation, your Rhode Island Bar Foundation has awarded 64 law school scholarships totaling $655,000 to deserving law students?

And did you know that since 1985, the Foundation has also awarded grants totaling over $24 million (using funds earned from your IOLTA accounts) to non-profit organizations, primarily organizations that provide legal services to the poor?

One such grantee is the Rhode Island Center for Justice.  The Center uses its IOLTA grant funds to help keep the lights on for Rhode Island's low-income customers

Jennifer L. Wood, executive director, explained to me that much of their work focuses on low-income consumers with disabilities as well as those who are seriously ill, elderly or have very young children in the home.

In 2015, based on data gathered through individual cases, the Center brought class action litigation to require that the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) and National Grid consistently and fairly provide the required protections to individuals with disabilities and seriously ill individuals facing utility service termination. This case resulted in two detailed settlements in 2016: one with National Grid and the second with the DPUC.

In addition to individual representation in termination cases and impact litigation, for the past three years, the Center has represented the interests of low-income consumers in all relevant PUC rate setting and utility regulatory hearings.

For example, this summer the Center represented a former public safety officer, now retired due to a disability, who experienced a utility service termination that could have resulted in his hospitalization, due to medical equipment needs. This hard-working father had made the payment required to keep electrical service on, but due to both bureaucratic and technical problems, his utility service had nonetheless been terminated. Through immediate intervention by the Center, his utility service was restored and he was able to move back into his home.

Every day, your IOLTA funds, administered by the Rhode Island Bar Foundation, are helping the disadvantaged in Rhode Island obtain access to justice.

Thank you!