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 Washoe Legal Services.
If you cannot find what you are looking for or need further assistance, please email the Pro Bono Project or call 702-386-1422.
Available Cases: View the list of available cases here.
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 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 (including such issues as medical indifference, excessive force, First Amendment, and many other types of civil rights and inmate cases), Title VII employment cases, Hague Convention, intellectual property and the Social Security Act, as well as cases presenting other 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.
- Amended Pro Bono General Order Establishing the Pro Bono Program – 10/18/2021 Order
- Order of Referral to Pro Bono Program
- Order of Appointment of Counsel
Volunteer Attorney Forms
Pro Se Litigant Assistance & Forms
Pro Bono Attorney Resources
- 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Section 1983 Outline
- Overview of Section 1983 Litigation, Parts I & II, Prof. Karen Blum
- Section 1983 PowerPoint, Prof. Karen Blum
- Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook
- The Federal Pro Bono Program, Communique Magazine, January 2022
- Appearing Pro Bono Publico, Communique Magazine, October 2015
- Federal Pro Bono Opportunities, Nevada Lawyer, August 2015
Frequently Asked Questions
The Federal Pro Bono Program is a program in the District of Nevada which allows the court to appoint pro bono (unpaid) counsel for unrepresented, income-eligible litigants in certain civil cases. At any time during the course of a case, an assigned judge may refer the case to the program for appointment of a pro bono attorney. The judges look at a variety of factors before selecting the cases to be considered for pro bono counsel, including the pro se (unrepresented) litigant’s ability to obtain counsel, the merits of the case, and the type or complexity of the case. The referrals are then sent to Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (for cases in Clark County or Southern Nevada) or Washoe Legal Services (for cases in Washoe County or Northern Nevada), which then screen the litigant for financial eligibility. If the litigant qualifies, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada or Washoe Legal Services will attempt to find a pro bono lawyer to participate in the case. If the litigant agrees to be represented by the lawyer, the judge will order the appointment. The District of Nevada’s Amended General Order 2019-07 has more information on the program and the process.
Section 1(a) of Amended General Order 2019-07 (10/18/21 version) 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 Southern Nevada or Washoe Legal Services 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 of Southern Nevada and Washoe Legal Services 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 email@example.com (South) or firstname.lastname@example.org (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, the type of representation required (general or limited) 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 of Southern Nevada and Washoe Legal Services try to be fair and inclusive in assigning volunteers. 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 and Washoe Legal Services, 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 Amended General Order 2019-07 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. For more information on getting started, please review this note that is intended to give some basic guidance on the basic steps to get things going.
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 email@example.com to close the case with Washoe 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com (Las Vegas) or firstname.lastname@example.org (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
Virtual visits are available at most Nevada State prisons. For information to set up a virtual visit, please contact the pro bono department. It is wise to visit the client in order to establish an attorney-client relationship and as necessary during the pendency of the case. Please review this note that is intended to give some basic guidance on the basic steps to get things going.
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.
In the legal field, the term pro bono refers to legal work that is performed voluntarily and free of charge. A lawyer may take on a case for free because he or she believes the case has merit or is important, or simply to help the court and the individual. The phrase “pro bono” comes from the Latin term pro bono publico, which means for the public good. When a lawyer works pro bono, he or she is said to be working for the public good.
The federal judge decides if he or she wants to refer your case for the appointment of a pro bono lawyer through the Federal Pro Bono Program. The judges look at a variety of factors before selecting the cases to be considered for pro bono counsel, including the pro se (unrepresented) litigant’s ability to obtain counsel, the merits of the case, and the type or complexity of the case. Section 1(a) of Amended General Order 2019-07 lists the factors a judge may consider in deciding whether a referral is warranted.
- Does my income need to be under a certain limit to qualify for participation in the Pro Bono Program?
No. Pro bono attorneys are performing a service on a pro bono basis and do not charge fees for the services provided. However, if there are litigation costs that cannot be waived, the client may be responsible for those costs.
No. The federal judge decides if he or she wants to refer your case for the appointment of a pro bono lawyer through the Federal Pro Bono Program. You cannot apply for the referral yourself; the judge will determine if a referral is appropriate once your case has started. If you are looking for more information on representing yourself, visit the District of Nevada’s Pro Se page, review the Pro Se Assistance Packet, visit Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada to get more information on the Federal Ask-A-Lawyer Program, visit Nevada Legal Services to get more information on their Ask-A-Lawyer programs and forms clinics, or visit Washoe Legal Services for more information on their Federal Ask-A-Lawyer Clinic.
If you are having an issue with the lawyer assigned to your case, you may contact Legal Aid Center’s Pro Bono Project staff at email@example.com or 702-386-1444 or you may contact Washoe Legal Services at 775-329-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the matter. They will work with you and your pro bono attorney in order to resolve the issue and improve your working relationship. If the attorney/client relationship breaks down and cannot be restored, your attorney may request to withdraw from the case or you may choose to terminate their representation. In most situations, clients accepted into the Program will not be provided another pro bono attorney.