Pro Bono Panel

Join the Pro Bono Panel (Link)


Background
For several years, the Court has had a need for attorneys to contribute their time by representing prisoner plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging conditions of confinement or alleging unconstitutional treatment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the past few years, the Court has faced an increasing number of these prisoner actions requiring the assistance of counsel.   Attorneys are appointed pursuant to General Order 510, which also details the expense reimbursement procedures for appointed attorneys.

In 1988, the Eastern District of California first organized a panel of attorneys available for appointment in cases filed by pro se inmate plaintiffs. Since then, the court has taken additional steps to expand the panel; the panel as of June 2009 consists of 131 members.

Panel members are expected to take at least one case every three years. The Court typically would only assign cases where the prisoner had already survived summary judgment or where the legal importance or difficulty of the summary judgment issues was evident. In most cases, discovery would be closed, and absent good cause to re-open it, would remain closed. Thus, representation in one of these cases should require a relatively limited cost and time commitment.

In addition to providing an opportunity for public service, these cases are especially appropriate for young lawyers who might otherwise not have the experience of trying a civil case to a jury in federal court. Attorneys who have volunteered for the panel, and who have accepted appointment, have been acknowledged by the Chief Judge at the Eastern District Annual Conference each year since 2005.

Panel members are reimbursed for reasonable costs expended in prosecuting a case. Reasonable costs expended may be reimbursable pursuant to General Order 510. In addition, if the plaintiff obtains a favorable judgment, the attorney may seek attorneys' fees from the defendants.


Limited Purpose Appointments
The Pro Bono Program includes the opportunity to accept a limited purpose appointment. The Court has recently begun appointing counsel for the limited purpose of attending a mediation or settlement conference on behalf of an inmate. Limited purpose appointments will also be used in cases where the inmate needs assistance in researching and briefing a complicated legal issue.

Recovering Out-of-Pocket Expenses
The Eastern District established and the following policy and procedures for cost expenditures and reimbursements:

A.  Attorneys must obtain pre-approval for each expenditure.

B.  A pro bono panel attorney seeking to recover out-of-pocket expenses must complete a simple form for advance approval of all expenditures. This form will set out the nature of the contemplated expenditure, the reason for it, the anticipated amount and a summary of previous costs. A recommended form entitled, "Request for Authority to Incur Costs (Appointed Counsel) and Request for Payment [PDF Form]" should be completed and submitted to:

Sujean Park
ADR and Pro Bono Program Director
United States District Court
Eastern District of California
501 I Street, Suite 4-200
Sacramento, California 95814

C.  The costs of depositions will be borne by the Certified Reporters' fund pursuant to California Business & Professions Code § 8030.2. Additional information regarding the transcript reimbursement fund and instructions for seeking reimbursement can be found by visiting: http://www.courtreportersboard.ca.gov.

D.  After an expense has been approved and subsequently incurred, the attorney must submit a receipt to process payment. The receipt must be submitted with a declaration stating the cost was incurred and paid. The Declaration of Cost/Expenses [PDF Form] and receipt must be submitted to:

Sujean Park
ADR and Pro Bono Program Director
United States District Court
Eastern District of California
501 I Street, Suite 4-200
Sacramento, California 95814

Pro bono counsel will reimburse the Clerk of the Court for all expenses reimbursed pursuant to this procedure upon settlement or other successful resolution of the case resulting in monetary award to plaintiff. This repayment must be made prior to any disbursement to counsel, plaintiff, or any other person.

Procedural and status inquiries should be directed to:
Sujean Park
ADR and Pro Bono Program Director
United States District Court
Eastern District of California
501 I Street, Suite 4-200
Sacramento, California 95814
Telephone: (916) 930-4278
spark@caed.uscourts.gov

Other Resources
9th Circuit Pro Se Handbook [pdf link]
Prisoner Self Help Packet [pdf]
Arranging a Client Visit [pdf]
General Order 510 [pdf]