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The Justice & Diversity Center: Pro Bono Legal Services Program

Federal Pro Bono Project


The Federal Pro Bono Project provides assistance to litigants who do not have legal representation in the Northern District of California. The Project provides information and advice at the Legal Help Centers located in the San Francisco and Oakland district courthouses.  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.

The Project also arranges pro bono legal representation for litigants without legal representation and 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 contact Manjari Chawla at mchawla@sfbar.org.