Court Programs

Federal

U.S. District Court, District of Oregon Pro Bono Representation Program

Under the Pro Bono Representation Program established by the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, a judicial officer may consider the appointment of pro bono counsel for all purposes, for the limited purpose of reviewing a pro se litigant’s claims or defenses, or for other specific purposes, such as mediation or settlement conference. The consideration by a judge to appoint pro bono counsel may be initiated in response to a motion for appointment of counsel, or may be entered sua sponte by the judge.   The Pro Bono Panel administrator maintains a current list of attorneys and law firms willing to volunteer for the Pro Bono Representation. 

U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois Mandatory Pro Bono Program

Lawyers licensed to practice law before the Northern District of Illinois must meet certain experience and education requisites to join the District’s trial bar. They are also required to be available to represent indigents in a civil case when called to do so. Admission to the trial bar allows a lawyer to litigate in the Court beyond filing motions and attending status calls.

U.S. District Court, Arizona Pro Bono Program

The United States District Court for the District of Arizona established a pro bono program in 2007 for counsel to assist in a limited number of pro se cases. The program matches law firms and counsel with pro se lawsuits that District Judges and Magistrate Judges determine would benefit particularly from the appointment of counsel. Volunteers periodically receive e-mails summarizing available cases, which volunteers are free to choose among and reject.

United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has created a pro bono program that provides free legal services to indigent debtors involved in adversary proceedings related to the discharge and non-dischargeability of certain debts. The program also provides service to an indigent former-spouse of a debtor regarding the dischargeability of obligations in the judgment of divorce. The Court has asked members of the bankruptcy bar to volunteer to accept pro bono assignments under the program.

Under the program, an individual requesting pro bono representation submits an application on a form available from the Clerk's Office. Generally, the Court grants an application if: (1) the applicant's current income does not exceed 200% of the current year's U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines for the applicant's family size; and (2) the applicant does not have sufficient assets to pay for the needed representation. The determination is made by the judge assigned to the adversary proceeding. If the application is granted, the Court enters an order appointing an attorney from the list of attorneys who have volunteered to provide pro bono representation in this program.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Pro Bono Program

In 1993 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals established its expanded and revised pro bono plan, with the goal of providing pro bono counsel to pro se parties with meritorious or complex appeals. In order for counsel to be appointed under the program, the case must present an issue of first impression or some complexity, or "otherwise [warrant] further briefing and oral argument." Accordingly, before being selected for inclusion in the program, cases are prescreened by either a staff attorney or a panel of judges.

Under the program, funds are available to reimburse counsel for reasonable and necessary out of pocket expenses, including preparation of the briefs and travel to oral argument.

United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida has established a pro bono program to assist low-income debtors who are involved in adversary proceedings related to the discharge and non-dischargeability of certain debts or contested matters involving homestead exemption limits.

To be eligible for pro bono representation under the program, a litigant must not have sufficient assets to pay for a lawyer and must not have income in excess of 200% of the current year's poverty guidelines for the litigant's family size.

If those conditions are met, the bankruptcy judge presiding over the case may refer the case to a volunteer lawyer. The debtor or former spouse of the debtor may also file a written application for representation.

United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of New York

In February 2006, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York updated its "Rules Governing the Appointment of Pro Bono Counsel in Bankruptcy Proceedings." The new rules create a panel of attorneys and law firms that are willing to accept appointment to represent pro se parties in bankruptcy proceedings when such parties lack the resources to retain counsel. Attorneys and law firms who wish to participate may obtain registration forms from the Clerk's office.

Pro bono counsel will be appointed only for those individuals who have appeared pro se and are unable to afford counsel. In determining whether to appoint counsel, the judge may take the following factors into account:

  1. the nature and complexity of the matter in which the pro bono counsel is to represent the client;
  2. the apparent potential merit of the claim or issue involved;
  3. the inability of the client to retain counsel by other means;
  4. the degree to which the interests of justice will be served by the appointment of counsel; and
  5. any other factors deemed appropriate.

Once a bankruptcy judge concludes that the appointment of counsel from the Panel may be warranted and the client consents, the judge may request that the Panel Administrator select counsel from the Panel. The Panel Administrator may, in its discretion, select counsel not on the Panel or select a specific attorney on the Panel who is specially qualified to undertake the representation.

United State District Court for the Eastern District of New York

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York's has enacted its Rules Governing Procedures for Appointment of Attorneys in Pro Se Civil Actions. The Rules govern the appointment of attorneys to pro se parties in civil actions who lack the resources to retain counsel by any other means.

According to the Rules, attorneys or law firms who are willing to accept appointment to represent pro se parties in civil actions shall apply for designation to the Civil Pro Bono Panel on appropriate forms available from the Clerk of Court.

The Judge assigned to the action shall determine whether a Panel Attorney is to be appointed to represent the pro se party. The factors to be taken into account in making this determination are:

  1. the nature and complexity of the action;
  2. the potential merit of the claims as set forth in the pleadings;
  3. the inability of the pro se party to retain counsel by other means;
  4. the degree to which the interests of justice will be served by appointment of counsel, including the benefit the Court may derive from the assistance of the appointed counsel; and
  5. any other factors deemed appropriate by the Judge.

If the Judge concludes that appointment of counsel is warranted, the Judge shall issue an order directing appointment of an attorney from the Pro Bono Panel to represent the pro se party. The Judge may, if he or she deems it desirable, direct appointment of an attorney not on the Panel or a specific attorney on the Panel who is specially qualified to undertake the representation.

United States District Court for the District of Connecticut: United States District Court for the District of Connecticut Local Rule 83.10 

As amended in 2008, Local Rule 83.10 of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut creates an assignment wheel and a volunteer wheel to be used in assigning members of the Bar to provide pro bono representation in civil cases. Any member of the Bar who has appeared as a counsel of record in more than one civil action in the Court since January 1, 2015 is eligible for inclusion in the assignment wheel, with some excluding conditions. The volunteer wheel is comprised of attorneys who are members of the Bar and request in writing to be included in the Volunteer Wheel.

The presiding judge has discretion to appoint pro bono counsel upon motion or when the judge determines that the appointment will serve the interests of justice. If, however, the judge determines that pro bono counsel should be appointed to represent a person who cannot afford an attorney and who is proceeding in the case pro se, an order will issue directing the Clerk to appoint pro bono counsel. The Clerk will then select the next attorney whose name is randomly generated by the Volunteer Wheel, or the Assignment wheel if no attorney from the Volunteer Wheel is available.

United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island Civil Pro Bono Program

The Civil Pro Bono Program sets up an assigned-counsel project to serve indigent defendants. : "Attorneys willing to accept appointment to represent individuals who have been granted in forma pauperis status, or entities that the Court determines are of limited financial means, should submit an application to the Clerk of Court to become members of the Court's Civil Pro Bono Panel ("Panel"). Attorneys who are members in good standing of the bar of this Court may become members of the Panel. Attorneys with less than five (5) years of civil litigation experience and attorneys who the Court determines otherwise lack the requisite civil litigation experience will be required to work on cases under the supervision of a mentor attorney."

For more information, please click here

Documents related to their Civil Pro Bono Panel

United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project

In 2009, The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California worked with local county bar associations and non profits to develop its Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project, open to individuals currently involved in a bankruptcy case who cannot afford legal services.

The program is staffed by volunteer bankruptcy attorneys at free legal clinics conducted throughout the District. The attorneys will only provide brief legal advice related to a current bankruptcy case, they will not provide representation in the proceeding.

Central District of Illinois, District Court Fund

In October 2009, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois established its District Court Fund from fees paid by newly-admitted attorneys.

In a civil case where an attorney is appointed by a judicial officer to represent an indigent party, the judicial officer to whom the case is assigned may authorize the payment of out-of-pocket fees and expenses reasonably incurred and not otherwise recoverable.

Massachusetts' Plan for the Appointment of Counsel for Indigent Parties in Certain Civil Cases

On May 1, 2009, the Judges of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts approved the Court's Plan for the Appointment of Counsel for Indigent Parties in Certain Civil Cases with the objective of facilitating "the appointment of pro bono counsel for indigent pro se parties in civil cases when such appointment has been authorized by a judicial officer." Under the Plan, when a judicial officer determines that there is sufficient cause to exercise the discretionary power of the Court to appoint counsel, the judicial officer shall issue an order granting the indigent party's request for the pro bono appointment of an attorney. The order is then transmitted to the Pro Bono Coordinator who circulates a description of the case to participating law firms for acceptance.

United States District Court, District of South Carolina

The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina has also developed a pro bono program.  Under the program, a volunteer attorney is appointed only after summary judgment is denied and the case is set for trial. At that point, the volunteer attorney takes over the case to prepare for and conduct the trial. In other words, in most cases, there is no discovery to be taken; all that is required is participation at a pretrial conference, jury selection, and trial. Most judges, upon request, relieve the trial attorney from any obligation to continue in the case if an appeal is taken.
The District has a fund consisting of monies paid by attorneys seeking pro hac vice admission. The court has approved use of this fund to reimburse out-of-pocket costs of attorneys who participate in this pro bono program. This money may not be used to pay attorney’s fees. Actual costs include “witness expenses, subpoenas, mileage, and the like.”

State

Second District of California 

The Second District of California has developed its own court-based pro bono program which offers representation to indigent litigants who are without counsel. Under the program, when a pro per applicant files a notice of appeal, the Clerk's initial mailing to that party includes a notice that describes the program. Later, Public Counsel sends letters inviting pro per litigants to submit their cases to Public Counsel, which screens them for financial eligibility.

All eligible parties will be able to attend a clinic on the appellate process and will be screened to determine if their case is eligible for assistance from volunteer counsel. Members of the Appellate Courts Committee will provide pro bono appellate services that include assisting Public Counsel in case evaluation and serving as volunteer counsel.

See "A New Pro Bono Frontier: California's Court of Appeal," by Fellow Robin Meadow, The Appellate Advocate, 2007, Issue 3. 

Florida

Florida One Campaign

In October 2009, The Florida Supreme Court's Standing Committee on Pro Bono, led by Judge William Van Nortwick, launched the One Campaign, committed to increasing lawyers' commitment to pro bono work in the state.

The focus of the One Campaign was to engage more attorneys in providing pro bono legal services through their local legal aid programs by taking on ONE case. "Put simply, the One Campaign speaks directly to the number one issue that many attorneys cite as an obstacle to providing to pro bono legal services: time." Accordingly, the Campaign encouraged attorneys to take on a single case where they could "utilize their unique skills to help regular citizens navigate the law."

Illinois

Circuit Court of Cook County Pro Bono Program for Victims of Mortgage Fraud and Predatory Lending

In 2006, the Circuit Court of Cook County joined the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services to launch an expanded pro bono program in the Court's Chancery Division. The goal of the program is to provide pro bono representation to litigants confronting foreclosures and other complex matters where they have potential relief available to them.

Under the program, if a litigant states that he or she cannot afford legal representation, and the court determines that it is not in the litigant's best interest to continue to proceed pro se, the judge may appoint CVLS as counsel for the litigant. CVLS will then evaluate the litigant's case and income status, and if CVLS accepts representation, one of their pro bono attorneys will represent the litigant going forward, with training and support services provided by CVLS.

Montana

Montana Attorneys for Montana Veterans

In June 2009, the Montana Supreme Court, through its statewide Pro Bono Program in partnership with the University of Montana Law School announced the formation of Montana Attorneys for Montana Veterans (MAMV). MAMV is designed as a pro bono program to assist Montana veterans with claims for disability benefits, preserving those benefits in their entirety for veterans.

New York

Access to Justice Volunteer Attorney Programs

The Court System has established the Volunteer Attorney Programs. Under the supervision of court staff, volunteer attorneys, law graduates, and law students are available to provide legal advice and assistance to unrepresented litigants in: answering questions and inquiries; completing petitions and other court forms; preparing for court hearings; interpreting court orders. Legal assistance is needed in the areas of consumer debt, family law, landlord/tenant, uncontested divorce, and matrimonial.

Oregon

Multnomah County Children's Representation Project

The Children's Representation Project is coordinated by The Hon. Susan Susan Svetkey and her staff. Under the program, pro bono attorneys are appointed by the Court to represent children whose parents are involved in custody disputes. The cases are assigned by the Multnomaah County Family Law Court.

Texas

Texas Supreme Court Pro Bono Pilot Program

The Texas Supreme Court and the Third Court of Appeals adopted a proposal from the Pro Bono Committee of the Texas Bar Association Appellate Committee establishing a joint pilot program to deliver appellate services to indigent or nearly indigent clients at risk of losing important rights. These pilot programs have been established or on the way in several state Appellate Courts, including the Supreme Court, the First, Second, Third, and Fourteenth Court of Appeal.s

The program is triggered when the Court requests full briefing of a pro se litigant's appeal and refers it to the Committee. Only after a pro se litigant's case receives three votes from the Court will it be eligible for the referral. The Clerk's office will then notify the parties and the Committee's Program Liaison of the referral.

The Committee's Program Liaison then sends a letter to the pro se litigant: (1) explaining the Program requirements; (2) providing an application; and (3) ascertaining his financial eligibility for the pro bono representation. If the litigant chooses not to apply or does not satisfy the financial requirements of the Program, the appeal proceeds pro se. Otherwise, the Committee disseminates basic facts and information about the case, including parties and background, through selected internet sites and a listserv sent to a pool of attorneys who have previously signed up to participate in the Program. An attorney is selected from that pool, and the litigant is informed of the match and afforded fourteen days to object the match.

Texas Tax Court Pro Bono

Working with the U.S. Tax Court, the Tax Section of Texas Bar Association has developed the Tax Court Pro Bono Program. The program encourages lawyers to offer pro bono consultation services to unrepresented, or pro se, taxpayers at calendar calls. Programs have been established in each of the Texas cities in which the court sits.

 

Updated April 2020