FAQ - Pro Bono Attorney FAQs

 

Pro Bono Civil Panel

  1. What is the purpose of the Pro Bono Civil Panel ("PBCP")?

    The PBCP furthers the administration of justice in two ways. First, it provides judges with a list
    of attorneys who are willing and able to provide legal assistance in civil matters to pro se litigants
    who cannot afford counsel. Second, it gives lawyers opportunities to gain valuable litigation
    experience by appearing in court for hearings and trials in a wide range of cases, including
    employment discrimination, civil rights, and a variety of diversity jurisdiction cases.

  2. Where do the volunteers come from? Is there a formal application process? What about
    experience?


    Panel volunteers consist of individuals and law firms from throughout the Northern District of
    Texas. No federal litigation experience is necessary for admission to the panel. To apply, use the
    pro bono registration form available on the court's website at www.txnd.uscourts.gov. Choose
    "Attorney Info" on the menu bar, and then "Pro Bono Civil Panel Information" to access the form. Upon
    completing the form, submit it as instructed on the form.

  3. What obligations do PBCP volunteers assume by signing up for the panel? Do you have
    to accept every case appointment?


    Upon notification of a potential appointment, a PBCP volunteer may decline to accept the
    appointment for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to: a conflict of interest, a recent
    appointment, or a busy work schedule.

  4. How are cases assigned?

    Generally, a PBCP appointment will be handled by a magistrate judge on reference by a district
    judge. An appointment to represent a pro se litigant will be made only after a judge has
    determined, based upon a review of the facts, that the case has some merit. This often occurs
    after a summary judgment motion is filed and it appears that the case will proceed to trial.

  5. What types of cases are assigned?

    The types of cases assigned include claims of employment discrimination, prisoner and nonprisoner
    civil rights violations, breach of contract, and other diversity and federal question
    jurisdiction cases. At times, a judge will appoint counsel for short-term help. For example, an
    appointment may be made to help a pro se plaintiff evaluate a case before mediation and
    discovery, to assist during mediation, or to respond to a motion for summary judgment or a
    motion for default judgment.

  6. How often will a case be assigned to a panel member?

    Unless a panel member requests otherwise, no panel member should be called upon to handle
    more than two cases per year. A record of each appointment will be kept by the U.S. District
    Clerk's Office to enable the court to determine which individuals and law firms have been
    appointed so as to avoid overburdening any of the PBCP volunteers.

  7. How much of a time commitment is involved? Do panel members have a say about
    scheduling?


    The time commitment required is driven by the type of assignment given by the court. Advice
    in evaluating a case will take much less time than conducting discovery, responding to motions,
    and representing a client through a jury trial.

  8. What about fees and expenses?

    A PBCP member should take a case without an expectation of compensation. Nonetheless, the
    court’s Plan for the Reimbursement of Attorney Expenses in Civil Cases ("plan") under
    Miscellaneous Order No. 16 allows for reimbursement of certain expenses and attorney’s fees.
    The maximum that may be reimbursed for expenses is $3,500, and the maximum that may be
    paid for fees is $1,000. A copy of the plan is available on the court's website at
    www.txnd.uscourts.gov and in the District Clerk's Office.

  9. What resources are available to panel members?

    1. Attorney Mentors

      Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program ("DVAP"), DVAP attorneys are available to
      answer questions. Call Michelle M. Alden, Managing Attorney at (214) 748-1234 ext.
      2234.

      Professors Mary Spector and Maureen Armour at the Southern Methodist University
      Civil Clinic are also available to answer questions, particularly in civil rights consumer
      debt collection cases. They can be reached at 214/768-2578.

    2. Mediators

      Jerry Grissom of JAMS/Endispute has volunteered to mediate some civil rights cases.
      He can be reached at 214/827-7841.

    3. Court Reporters

      A number of court reporters are willing to do pro bono work through the Texas Court
      Reporters' Association Pro Bono Project. Most prefer not to be used for an entire day.
      Dale Guedry is the contact for the Texas Court Reporters’ Association Pro Bono Project.
      He can be reached at 972/669-4080.

    4. Training

      Training opportunities for PBCP members will be announced periodically via e-mail and
      on the court's website.

  10. Is there anyone available to answer questions about the program?

    Yes. The Federal Bar Association's liaison to the Pro Bono Civil Panel is Cort Thomas. He may reached by telephone at 214-220-7815 or by email at cthomas@velaw.com.