A Cooperative Program of the
United States District Court for the Middle District of PA
and The Middle District Chapter of the Federal Bar Association
THE NEED FOR PRO BONO ATTORNEYS
HOW TO VOLUNTEER
MECHANISM FOR REQUESTING A VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY
A pro se indigent litigant may apply to the Court to have a volunteer attorney appointed to represent the litigant in a civil case. When the Court makes a determination that a request for a volunteer attorney is appropriate, it conditionally grants the motion for the appointment of counsel. The Court in its order directs that a copy of the order be sent to the pro bono chair of the Middle District Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and directs that the Court be informed in due course by the pro bono chair whether a volunteer attorney will enter his or her appearance. When the Court requests that an attorney be found for an indigent litigant, the pro bono chair examines the list of panel attorneys practicing near the litigant’s residence or near the city in which the judge handling the case is based. Attorneys are then contacted by the pro bono chair to obtain a volunteer who will meet with the litigant to determine, as an initial matter, whether the case has merit. Assuming that a volunteer attorney does undertake to pursue the case, the attorney is asked to file an entry of appearance promptly. When no volunteer attorney is willing to accept an appointment of counsel, the court may revoke the conditional order for the appointment of counsel.
FUNDS TO REIMBURSE VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS
To defray the out-of-pocket expenses incurred in representing indigent litigants, two expense funds now exist. The court has established its own non-appropriated fund for the purpose of reimbursing court appointed pro bono attorneys for costs necessarily incurred while representing indigent litigants in civil cases. To address shortfalls and to achieve the flexibility to provide “midstream” reimbursement of litigation expenses, the Federal Bar Association Chapter is creating a non-profit corporation to provide expense money to attorneys representing indigent litigants in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Chapter has received a grant from the national organization as seed money for this fund and is seeking additional grants and contributions from major law firms and other potential donors.
PROCEDURE FOR REQUESTING REIMBURSEMENT
At the conclusion of a case, any court-appointed pro bono attorney may request reimbursement from the court for costs necessarily incurred, not to exceed the maximum amount established by Standing Order (currently $1,500.00), provided that the attorney has not otherwise received or will not receive funds sufficient to cover the costs incurred. Specific requirements for requesting reimbursement of costs are set forth in Local Rule 83.34.6. A similar written application is presented to seek funds from the Federal Bar Association’s expense fund.
U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGES
Honorable Matthew W. Brann, Chief Judge
Honorable Christopher C. Conner
Honorable Malachy E. Mannion
Honorable Jennifer P. Wilson
Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo
Honorable Yvette Kane
Honorable Robert D. Mariani
U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGES
Honorable Karoline Mehalchick Chief Magistrate Judge
Honorable Martin C. Carlson
Honorable Susan E. Schwab
Honorable Joseph F. Saporito, Jr.
Honorable William I. Arbuckle
CLERK OF COURT
Peter J. Welsh, Clerk
O'Donnell Law Offices
267 Wyoming Avenue
Kingston, PA 18704
William J. Nealon Federal Building
and United States Courthouse
235 North Washington Ave.
Scranton, PA 18501
570-207-5680 (Direct Dial)
Federal Building and
United States Courthouse
228 Walnut Street, Room 1060
Harrisburg, PA 17108
717-221-3920 (Direct Dial)