Public Counsel Federal Pro Se Clinic Annual Report 2009-2010

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According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, civil pro se filings in the federal courts for the 12 months ending September 30, 2009, numbered 71,543 nationwide.  These figures have steadily increased for the past several years. At the same time, an increasing number of civil cases are being filed against persons without counsel. Unrepresented civil litigants frequently have difficulty asserting claims and defenses in a proper and timely manner. As a result, cases involving pro se litigants create significant challenges for the federal courts. Even pro se litigants who have meritorious claims may not get a decision on the merits because they cannot navigate the often complex procedural rules that govern federal litigation, leading to resentment and frustration.  

In response to these challenges, the Court worked with Public Counsel and the law firm Proskauer LLP to create Public Counsel’s Federal Pro Se Clinic. After months of planning, the Clinic opened its doors on February 9, 2009. The Clinic offers free legal assistance to pro se litigants with civil cases in federal court. Located on-site in the Central District's Spring Street U.S. Courthouse, the Clinic is equipped to provide meaningful legal assistance to pro se litigants, with services ranging from identifying the next procedural step in a case to drafting pleadings for indigent litigants with meritorious claims. In its first year alone, the Clinic provided free legal assistance to 685 pro se civil litigants.

This report summarizes the accomplishments of the Clinic during its first year, from February 9, 2009, to February 9, 2010.