Federal Pro Bono Project

The Federal Pro Bono Project provides information and advice to pro se civil litigants in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California via Legal Help Centers in the San Francisco and Oakland federal courthouses. The Project also facilitates placement of civil cases with pro bono attorneys for limited or full scope representation when appointment of counsel is ordered by the court. Placements occur in any civil area of law but often involve federal civil rights statutes related to law enforcement misconduct, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, disability rights, and veterans rights.

Attorneys at the Help Centers offer advice only on federal civil matters. The service is by appointment only and clients can make appointments over the telephone or in an appointment book located outside the offices. There are no income requirements to visit the Help Centers. The service is not available to litigants who have attorneys or are incarcerated.

To make an appointment, please call (415) 782-8982 or email fedpro@sfbar.org.

The project also arranges pro bono legal representation for litigants without legal representation who have cases in the Northern District of California. To be referred for placement with a pro bono attorney, the court must issue an order asking the project to identify counsel. A litigant must be pro se, lack the resources to retain counsel, and have a case that warrants pro bono legal representation.

Many of the cases we place involve federal civil rights violations, such as police misconduct under Section 1983 and employment discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Appointments may be for full-scope representation for the duration of a case or for limited purposes, e.g., representation at a settlement conference or hearing on a motion to dismiss.

The attorneys on our panel provide a valuable public service to litigants and the court, but they also benefit from the opportunity to develop their federal practice skills and experience. Judges appreciate their volunteer efforts and often give constructive feedback.

Clients deeply appreciate the access to legal counsel that they could not otherwise afford. Attorneys on the panel must have experience litigating in federal court or have a mentor who can supervise their work.

If you are interested in joining the panel, please email fedpro@sfbar.org.

The Latest From the Federal Pro Bono Project

What Can I Do as a Pro Bono Attorney in the Northern District?

The webinar above provides an introduction to the Northern District of California’s Federal Pro Bono Project and the Federal Pro Se Program. These unique programs offer attorneys a variety of opportunities to assist pro se litigants, from mediation and settlement to litigation and representation at trial.

Panelists include judges who utilize and oversee the pro bono programs discussing the valuable experiences available to attorneys, current volunteer attorneys who shared what it’s like to represent a pro se client, and the attorneys and staff who run the programs in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

The webinar was co-sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Justice and Diversity Center, the Asian Law Alliance, and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. MCLE credit was not available for this program.