The Federal Pro Bono Program
The Federal Pro Bono Program is a program in the District of Nevada which allows the court to appoint pro bono (unpaid) counsel for unrepresented, income-eligible litigants in certain civil cases. At any time during the course of a case, an assigned judge may refer the case to the program for appointment of a pro bono attorney. The judges look at a variety of factors before selecting the cases to be considered for pro bono counsel, including the pro se (unrepresented) litigant’s ability to obtain counsel, the merits of the case, and the type of complexity of the case. The referrals are then sent to either Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (for cases in Clark County or Southern Nevada) or Washoe Legal Services (for cases in Washoe Country or Northern Nevada), which then screen the litigant for financial eligibility. If the litigant qualifies, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada or Washoe Legal Services will attempt to find a pro bono lawyer to participate in the case. If the litigant agrees to be represented by the lawyer, the judge will order the appointment. The District of Nevada’s General Order 2017-07 has more information on the program and the process.
For Lawyers Interested in Volunteering
The Federal Pro Bono Program is an incredible opportunity to fulfill your pro bono requirements while gaining federal civil litigation experience. Depending on the case, you might have the opportunity to represent your client during a jury trial in federal court. Cases in the past have included issues arising under Section 1983, Title VII, Hague Convention, and the Social Security Act, as well as cases presenting constitutional issues. This is a wonderful chance to expand your area of practice, get experience in the federal system, fulfill your ethical obligation to do pro bono work, and most importantly, have a profound impact on the life of a person in need.
If you are unfamiliar with the area of law, an experienced attorney mentor can be made available for guidance throughout the representation. In addition, the program allows for the reimbursement of certain expenses and also offers free attorney malpractice coverage. Lastly, if available under the law, you may be eligible for attorney fees.
The federal judges presiding in the District of Nevada recognize that appointing counsel to represent indigent civil litigants in appropriate cases will enhance our legal system by improving access to justice while increasing court efficiency. To get more information, visit Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s Federal Pro Bono page.