The History

1992 – March 2018

The Alabama Association for Justice (formerly known as the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association) began work to create the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation in 1992. With permission from the Alabama Supreme Court, the ACJF was established as an IOLTA to receive interest from lawyer’s trust accounts for charitable efforts throughout the state. Participation has grown from 50 attorneys in 1993 to more than 2,300 this year.
The ACJF began operating as a grant making foundation in 1993 with the first set of grants awarded in December of that year. Since then, over $10 million has been awarded to organizations throughout the state that serve Alabama’s needy families and children and over 750 organizations in every county in the state have received one or more grants from ACJF.  
There have been other milestones in giving.

  • The ACJF Board appointed an Executive Director, Sue McInnish, who began her service on November 15, 1993.
  • In 1993, the ACJF Board adopted a Mission Statement that called on the Foundation to “break down barriers to a civil and just society.”
  • In 1994, ACJF approved a logo that included a symbol that represented both an arrow pointing upward and a scales of justice with hearts.  The slogan “Lawyers Helping People” was added to the bottom of the logo.
  • In 1998, a Board Initiated Grant was made to facilitate the state’s activities focusing on “Birth to Three” research. 
  • Since 1999 when the ACJF allowed for the establishment of Donor Advised Funds by individuals and law firms, over $250,000 has been awarded through these separate funds.       
  • In 2001, the ACJF received funds from a Lee County Court to develop a state-wide, grassroots organization with a focus on consumer protection issues that disproportionally impact Alabama’s poor.
  • In January of 2002, Alabama Watch became an independent organization. 
  • In 2002:  ACJF took a lead in the state by awarding Capacity Building grants for nonprofits. 
  • In 2003:  ACJF advocated on behalf of Alabama’s poor children and families for a fair and adequate tax system.
  • In 2004:  ACJF received a $1 million contribution from four plaintiff law firms to be used to improve educational opportunities in the Anniston area.
  • In 2004 and 2005:  ACJF offered operating expense grants to organizations in order to provide the most flexible use of our funds as nonprofits across the state faced cut backs from state and national funding. 
  • In 2005:  ACJF awarded close to $100,000 to be used for Katrina Relief within our state from donations received from trial lawyers across the country.
  • In 2006:  ACJF has sought to meet its mission through participation in advocacy efforts to increase pre-K programs for Alabama four-year-olds and to increase support for constitutional reform. 
  • In 2007:  ACJF employed an outside consultant to work with board, staff and participating members to make strategic recommendations for building the capacity of the foundation. 
  • In 2007:  Alabama Supreme Court mandates that, as of January 2008, every pooled trust account must be established as an IOLTA.
  • In 2008:  ACJF awards $420,000 in Justice Grants to organizations that provide civil legal aid to the poor as well as other justice-related initiatives.
  • In 2008:  ACJF’s board of directors creates a “Junior Board” to pass on a legacy of giving to young attorneys to share the message of giving and “lawyers helping people” for generations to come.
  • In 2008:  ACJF establishes the Pioneers of Justice Society to recognized deceased attorneys and to raise funds to support the ACJF. Francis H. Hare, Sr. was the first honoree.
  • In 2009:  Howell Heflin, Jr. was recognized as the second honoree for the Pioneers of Justice Society. 
  • In 2009:  ACJF held a Roast and Toast Gala in honor of retired federal court judge, U.W. Clemon.
  • In 2010:  ACJF opened its Pioneers of Justice Society membership to individuals who made $10,000 pledges designated for access to justice grants.      
  • In 2010:  ACJF is selected to host a Hess Fellow from Birmingham Southern College. 
  • In 2010:  ACJF establishes the Advocates of Justice Society for attorneys and community leaders under the age of 40 as an effort to offer large charitable giving to support the work of the Foundation.
  • In 2010:  ACJF partners with the Alabama Association of Nonprofits to plan and sponsor CLEs on Nonprofit Law.
  • In 2010:  ACJF partners with one of its grantees, the American Board of Trial Advocates to expand the use of the curriculum “Justice for the People” in elementary and middle schools across the state on and around Constitution Day.
  • In 2011:  ACJF honors former Governor Albert Brewer at a Roast & Toast Gala.
  • In 2011:  ACJF begins accepting grant applications through an online system.
  • In 2011:  ACJF completes its grantmaking through the Anniston Civil Justice Fund.
  • In 2012:  ACJF hosts the first FABulous Beach Party at the summer conference of the Alabama Association for Justice.
  • In 2012:  ACJF awarded a $100,000 2-year grant to the AL Network of Family Resource Centers to build the capacity to expand the number of community-based centers using this successful model for delivering services and providing support.
  • In 2013:  ACJF moves to the ALAJ office in the newly renovated House of Mayors.      
  • In 2013:  ACJF Roast & Toast Gala honors Herman “Buck” Watson with record attendance.
  • In 2014:  ACJF begins a focus on how to best communicate to the public and stakeholders about civil legal aid.
  • In 2014:  ACJF was awarded a Foundation Leadership Grant for $15,020 from the National Association of IOLTA Programs (NAIP) to encourage non-IOLTA foundations and other funders to increase their support for civil legal aid.
  • In 2014:  ACJF commissioned three Social Return on Investment Studies on the 2014 civil legal aid services provided by Legal Services AL and all Volunteer Lawyers Programs, the 2014 family services provided by members of the AL Network of Family Resource Centers, and a combined study projecting the results if these providers had partnered together.      
  • In 2015:  As a part of the NAIP grant awarded in 2014 to ACJF, all civil legal aid partners collaborated to hold four Community Conversations about Civil Legal Aid to expand awareness of this valuable service to communities in Alabama.
  • In 2015:  ACJF received $273,000 from the national Bank of America Settlement to be used for legal services in areas of foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment legal services.
  • In 2015:  ACJF hosted a very successful Roast & Toast Gala on September 17, honoring former UA Law School Dean and Professor Charles W. Gamble. Over 400 guests attended the event.
  • In 2016:  Foreclosure Prevention Grants were awarded to seven civil legal aid organizations totaling $266,000 from the Department of Justice/Bank of America Settlement funds.      
  • In 2016:  ACJF partnered with several civil legal aid providers to conduct a workshop entitled “Enhancing Social Services with Civil Legal Aid” at the 2016 Nonprofit Summit hosted by the Alabama Association of Nonprofits.
  • In 2016:  Received a second disbursement from the Department of Justice and Bank of America Settlement in the amount of $3,341,232 million to be used for foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment legal services.
  • In 2017:  Second year of Foreclosure Prevention Grants in the amount of $268,500 were awarded to seven legal aid organizations.
  • In 2017:  ACJF partnered with the Foreclosure Prevention Partnership and the Alabama Housing Finance Authority to increase the usage of Hardest Hit Funds awarded to eligible homeowners facing difficulty paying their mortgages.       
  • In 2017:  ACJF hosted a training session for Housing Counselors and legal aid and family service providers on the process for assisting low income clients to access the Hardest Hit funds. 
  • In 2017:  ACJF held a Funders Huddle for the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers to present the Network’s plans for expanding FRCs across the state and providing Family Support information and training to non-members across the state. The event was attended by some 25 foundations and governmental agencies.
  • In 2017:  ACJF held the fifth Roast & Toast Gala to honor former Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor William J. “Bill” Baxley. Over 380 attended the wonderful evening.
  • In 2017:  Celebration of the Foundation’s 25th Anniversary began as the amount of grants reached the $10 million mark.
  • In 2018:  ACJF revised its website and added a section for Community & Consumer Education. The first subjects covered included Pre-K Research, Arbitration and 7th Amendment Rights, and a Social Return on Investments study of Alabama civil legal aid.

The history of the ACJF involves giving to others. But this has been possible only because of the growing number of Alabama lawyers who provide financial support through IOLTAs and direct charitable contributions. With their efforts, the ACJF, and the lawyers it represents, have become recognized as a philanthropic leader in its support for Alabama’s most disadvantaged families and children. The ACJF continues to make history as it represents the heart and soul of the legal profession in Alabama.