The District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina receives filings from pro se litigants, including a large number filed by prison inmates. Statistically, many of these cases are dismissed before or on summary judgment, but occasionally, some survive summary judgment and are tried by jury. Particularly for those cases that go to trial, it may be desirable to have an attorney represent the pro se party.
Pursuant to Amended Standing Order 6, the District Judges would like to offer all attorneys who practice in federal court the opportunity to participate in a pro bono activity representing pro se litigants in appropriate cases. A volunteer attorney would generally be appointed only after summary judgment is denied and the case is set for trial. At that point, the volunteer attorney would take over the case to prepare for and conduct the trial. In other words, in most cases, there is no discovery to be taken; all that is required is participation at a pretrial conference, jury selection, and trial. Most judges, upon request, will relieve the trial attorney from any obligation to continue in the case if an appeal is taken.
Attorneys interested in participating in the program will be placed on a list. When a Judge requests appointment from the list, the Clerk will select the next eligible name from the list (ordered at random) and send a Notice of Appointment of Counsel via email regarding a particular civil case. The attorney may decline the appointment for any reason. If the attorney declines to accept the appointment, the attorney will remain on the panel list for a future appointment in another civil case. Responses to the Notice of Appointment of Counsel should be made within two business days. The Clerk may grant up to one written request for extension of time to decide whether to decline an appointment, totaling not more than 10 days.
An appointed attorney may petition the court for reimbursement of certain expenses incurred in the preparation and presentation of the case, subject to the guidelines in Appendix A of the Bench and Bar Fund Plan. Attorneys are not required to advance any costs on behalf of the litigant. Please also be aware that appointments of counsel in petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 and 2254, motions seeking to set aside or vacate a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and all criminal matters are made from the court’s Criminal Justice Act panel.
If you or any lawyers in your firm are interested in having your name(s) added to the list of attorneys for possible volunteer pro bono work, kindly complete the Pro Bono Representation Request Form and submit it to John Brubaker, Clerk of Court, 324 W. Market St., Greensboro, NC 27401. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Brubaker at your convenience at 336-332-6000.