Public Counsel's Appellate Law Program helps self-represented litigants better represent themselves in their civil matters and provides pro bono representation in selected cases. The Program thereby increases access to justice and improves efficiency in the courts. The Program operates two clinics, one for civil appeals and one for federal district court cases in the Central District of California. Both clinics assist self-represented litigants in a wide variety of civil cases.
Appellate Self-Help Clinic
A self-represented civil litigant faces numerous hurdles in the appellate courts. Determining whether a trial court's order is appealable, calculating the time to file a notice of appeal, providing an adequate record to the appellate court, and drafting briefs that clearly discuss the relevant facts, procedural history, and law may be difficult tasks. Public Counsel's Appellate Law Program, in partnership with the Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal, operates a self-help clinic to help self-represented civil litigants accomplish these and other tasks.
The self-help clinic is located at the California Court of Appeal in downtown Los Angeles. A Public Counsel attorney with experience in civil appeals staffs the clinic. Among other things, the clinic provides Judicial Council and Second District forms, sample briefs, simplified practice guides, and detailed explanations of the many rules and procedures involved in the appellate process. People seek assistance from the clinic in a wide variety of civil appeals.
Pro Bono Representation on Appeal
When the Appellate Law Program identifies a self-represented indigent civil litigant with an appellate matter that is appropriate for pro bono representation, the Program works with the Appellate Courts Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association to place the appeal with pro bono counsel. Matters are appropriate for placement with pro bono counsel when the litigant's position on appeal appears to have arguable merit and the litigant and the appellate court would benefit from having a lawyer prepare the litigant's briefs and present oral argument. The Appellate Law Program carefully screens appeals before placing them with pro bono counsel.
Other Appellate Matters
The Appellate Law Program represents litigants and files amicus briefs in appellate courts throughout the nation, in cases addressing civil rights and other issues affecting Public Counsel’s clients.
Federal Pro Se Clinic
Federal court also presents numerous challenges to pro se civil litigants. Public Counsel's Proskauer Federal Pro Se Clinic assists these litigants in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Located in the Los Angeles federal courthouse on Spring Street, the clinic helps pro se litigants prepare complaints and responsive pleadings, provides written instructions and forms for other common pleadings, answers procedural questions, and explains legal concepts such as jurisdiction, venue, and service of process. The clinic is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and is staffed by two attorneys, a paralegal, and a group of volunteer law students and attorneys.
The clinic was made possible by a generous grant to Public Counsel from the law firm Proskauer LLP. In addition, the clinic enjoys strong support from the court's judges and staff.
Pro Bono Representation in Federal Court
When the Federal Pro Se Clinic identifies a case brought by an indigent pro se civil litigant that is appropriate for pro bono representation, the clinic places the case with pro bono counsel.