Pro Bono Counsel in Prisoner Cases
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
Pro Bono Counsel For Pro Se Clients in Mediation
The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has, since early 2007, been offering to its pro se litigants the assistance of pro bono counsel during the alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) process. Through the Court’s Pro Se Pro Bono ADR Program, pro se litigants receive professional evaluation and legal advice at a critical juncture of their case, and they gain a better understanding of, and assistance through, the ADR process. This legal assistance was expanded in 2013 to include incarcerated pro se litigants who have filed civil cases with the court. The appointment is for the ADR process only and does not obligate counsel to assist the litigant with any other aspect of their case.
The Pro Se Pro Bono ADR Program has, since its inception, been administered for the Court by the law firm of Jones Day. If you would like to volunteer legal services to the Pro Se Pro Bono ADR Program, please contact the current coordinator of the Court’s Pro Se Pro Bono Program,
Katelyn Matscherz of Jones Day at 412-394-7285 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.