The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has a large number of civil rights cases filed by incarcerated individuals. Because many of these cases implicate disputes over material issues of fact, they proceed to civil jury trials. Trying a lawsuit with an incarcerated pro se plaintiff presents obvious difficulties for all parties as well as the Court. To assist the Court and the parties in trying these cases, the Court has instituted a program of pro bono representation in selected cases.
In a majority of these cases the Court will not appoint a pro bono volunteer lawyer until it has been determined that there are triable issues, dispositive motions have been ruled upon and the case is ready for trial. Volunteer lawyers will be permitted discovery as necessary to prepare for trial. Fees are not recoverable even if your client is awarded a verdict in his or her favor as this is viewed as strictly pro bono service. However, the court has a fund to cover reasonable costs incurred in the representation, regardless of the outcome of the case.
In addition to providing assistance to the court, as well as 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. If you are interested in assisting the Court in this endeavor or have any questions, please contact Nicole Kierzek at 814-874-5906 or email her at