The information and resources provided on this page are intended for use by volunteer attorneys representing federal clients through the Pro Bono Project of Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Nevada Legal Services.
The Federal Pro Bono Program is an incredible opportunity to fulfill your pro bono requirements while gaining federal civil litigation experience. Depending on the case, you might have the opportunity to represent your client during a jury trial in federal court. Cases in the past have included issues arising under Section 1983, Title VII, Hague Convention, and the Social Security Act, as well as cases presenting constitutional issues. This is a wonderful chance to expand your area of practice, get experience in the federal system, fulfill your ethical obligation to do pro bono work, and most importantly, have a profound impact on the life of a person in need.
- General Order Establishing the Pro Bono Program
- Order of Referral to Pro Bono Program
- Order of Appointment of Counsel
Pro Se Forms
Frequently Asked Questions
The Federal Pro Bono Program is a partnership between the U.S. District Court, the Federal Bar Association, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Nevada Legal Services, Boyd School of Law and practicing attorneys to increase access to justice in Nevada’s federal courts. Established by Chief Judge Gloria M. Navarro’s General Order 2016-2, the Program offers attorneys the opportunity to serve the court while gaining federal practice experience through representation of indigent clients in civil matters.
Review the General Order Establishing the Pro Bono Program and read the following FAQ’s for more information.
At any time during the course of litigation, an assigned Magistrate Judge or District Judge may refer a case to the Program for appointment of pro bono counsel. Cases in the South are referred to Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada; cases in the North are referred to Nevada Legal Services – Reno office. Upon receiving the referral, the legal aid programs will screen the prospective client for income eligibility and, if qualified, will recruit a pro bono attorney to handle their case. Depending on the Court’s referral, the engagement may be for a limited purpose, such as representing the litigant at a settlement conference, or a general appointment through trial.
Section 1(a) of General Order 2016-2 lists the factors a judge may consider in deciding whether a referral is warranted. Cases that have been referred since the program commenced have included: cases arising under Section 1983, Title VII, Hague Convention and the Social Security Act as well as cases presenting constitutional issues.
Upon referral by a Judge to the Program, the case will be sent to the Pro Bono Liaison. The Liaison will gather pertinent materials, including copies of all necessary filings in the case, and forward them to Legal Aid Center of Nevada (South) or Nevada Legal Services (North) to screen the litigant for financial eligibility and locate counsel willing to take on the pro bono representation. The current Pro Bono Liaison is Mai Tieu. Her contact information can be found in the General Order Establishing the Pro Bono Program.
Legal Aid Center (South) and Nevada Legal Services (North) maintain a list of attorneys who are interested in the Program and wish to be notified when volunteer attorneys are needed for cases assigned to the Program. All attorneys admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada may participate in the Program. (Motion for Admission to Practice) To be added to the volunteer list and included in the e-blast circulated to prospective volunteers, email firstname.lastname@example.org (South) or email@example.com (North). You will then be added to the email group to which we send email blasts advising of potential cases which will include a brief case description and the party names. By adding your name to the e-blast list, you are neither required to take a case nor guaranteed an assignment. Legal Aid Center and Nevada Legal Services try to be fair and inclusive in assigning volunteers.
Legal Aid Center (South) and Nevada Legal Services (North) notify attorneys by e-blast of pending federal cases in need of pro bono counsel. The e-blast includes a brief description of the case and issue(s) as well as the type of representation required (general or limited). An attorney interested in taking the federal case should respond to the e-blast or email firstname.lastname@example.org (South) or email@example.com (North). Attorneys may also find and select cases on the Available Cases page of the Pro Bono Project website.
Boyd School of Law students participating in the Partners in Pro Bono Program may be paired up with an experienced pro bono attorney to work on a federal pro bono case. Interested students can contact Christine Smith, Associate Dean for Public Service, Compliance and Administration. The program begins in September of each year; students are encouraged to stay with the case until completion. Student practice is an option for those who qualify under the Federal Rule. Cases are subject to availability.
Yes. The Program is administered by Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (South) or Nevada Legal Services (North), which provide free attorney malpractice coverage. The coverage is primary and extends both to representation and all counsel and advice. Volunteers also have the benefit of being assigned an attorney mentor with federal practice experience who can provide guidance and support to help ensure quality representation.
Experienced mentors may be assigned to any pro bono attorney upon request. Legal Aid Center works with the volunteer attorney at the outset of the representation to ensure he or she has sufficient guidance and/or supervision to competently handle the case.
Reimbursement of Reasonable Expenses
Pro bono counsel must seek reimbursement from the pro se litigant for the costs incurred in litigating the action to the extent feasible. Pro bono counsel may also apply for reimbursement of reasonable expenses from the Attorney Admissions Fund or other Non-Appropriated Funds account (“Court Fund”). See Section 2 of the General Order Establishing the Pro Bono Program for additional details.
Waiver of CM/ECF Fees
Attorneys who have taken on pro bono representation shall not be charged fees for use of the Court’s electronic filing system (PACER) in the case on which they are serving as pro bono counsel.
Within 30 days after pro bono counsel accepts an appointment, counsel shall complete and return to the Pro Bono Liaison the Appointment Response Form. Pro bono counsel shall also indicate that he/she has conferred with the litigant and that the litigant agrees to representation. Upon receipt of the Appointment Response Form, the Liaison will forward the form along with a proposed order appointing pro bono counsel to the referring Judge. Pro bono counsel is expected to remain as counsel for the duration of the purpose of the appointment. Appointment under this Program does not extend to an appeal of the final decision.
Pro Bono counsel should complete the Notice of Completion Form and submit it within 14 days after completion of legal services to the Pro Bono Liaison. Pro Bono counsel should also complete the online final disposition form to close the case with Legal Aid Center (South) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to close the case with Nevada Legal Services (North).
Bankruptcy Litigation Panel
Pro bono attorneys are needed to handle midstream bankruptcy cases. Clients whose cases are identified by the Bankruptcy Court as having legal problems are referred via “blue slip” to Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Volunteer attorneys serving on a Panel accept income-eligible clients on a rotating basis. Cases involve post-petition issues, such as objections to claims, reaffirmations, and other matters which may arise once a petition has been filed. Email email@example.com to sign up.
Federal Court Ask-A-Lawyer Program
Pro bono attorneys are needed to provide brief consultations to unrepresented individuals with open cases in Federal Court or those contemplating filing in Federal Court. Program is offered quarterly at the federal court buildings in Las Vegas and Reno. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (Las Vegas) or email@example.com (Reno) to sign up.
Inmate Early Mediation Program
Attorneys are appointed to serve as pro bono mediators in Section 1983 cases filed by pro se inmates against the Nevada Department of Corrections. The Program was adopted by General Order 2010-3 under Chief Judge Roger L. Hunt. Interested attorneys should contact the chambers of Magistrate Judge George W. Foley (Southern District) or Magistrate Judge Valerie P. Cooke (Northern District) for further information.
For Attorneys Representing Prisoners
Yes. It is wise to visit the client in order to establish an attorney-client relationship and as necessary during the pendency of the case.
First, check the Department of Corrections website to confirm the location of the client. Then call the warden’s secretary at the institution. You should advise him/her that you want an attorney contact visit. Have your client’s Inmate Number available. Be sure to use the words “contact visit” or you will be seeing the client behind glass and you might as well be on the telephone. Find out from the secretary what days and times are available and determine whether you need to set a specific time to visit the client. Days and times vary from institution to institution. You should arrive 20-30 minutes prior to the visit.
You can bring in one redwell (expandable file folder) of documents at most institutions. You cannot give any documents to the client and he/she cannot give any to you. Those exchanges must be done by mail. You can have documents signed and you can go over the documents you have with you.
No. Books must be sent directly from the publisher/distributor. CDs of a hearing, for instance, must be sent from the court.
These rules vary by institution and are not applied consistently. Just ask when you check in. Some wardens think that this is not appropriate for a legal visit. You are certainly not required to purchase anything for a client but if you want to, you must bring quarters in a plastic bag. You should leave wallets and purses in the car (except for your ID and Bar card).
Generally you should not wear any denim or blue clothing, no open-toed shoes, and no sleeveless tops. At least one institution prohibits visitors from wearing orange as well. Women must wear a bra and all visitors must wear underwear.
Your letters to your client should have “Attorney-Client Correspondence-Privileged” written clearly on the envelope and your name with Attorney at Law and Firm Name should be in the return address. Correspondence marked in this manner should be signed by an attorney and not by a non-attorney staff member. Do not include anything other than case-related documents in the envelope.
Access to phones for the client is unpredictable and inconsistent. In other words, you may set a time for a phone call from the client, but he/she may not be able to access a phone at that time. You cannot call into an inmate at the institution. Usually the client will be calling you collect and the prison telephone contractors charge exorbitant rates for collect calls from prisons. If the client is over-using collect calls, it is reasonable to limit the number of calls and the length. Third party calls are prohibited so if it sounds as if the client is calling a third party and patching you in, not only is confidentiality lost (although the phone call is probably being monitored anyway) but it is a rule violation.
There will be a guard nearby in the visiting room. In fact, if there is no attorney visiting room, you may ask to be moved far enough away from the guard and other visitors in order to have a private conversation. Your client will be grateful for your assistance. Incidents between inmates and attorneys are extremely rare.
View our general Volunteer FAQ for more information on representing clients through the Pro Bono Project.