Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas Pro Bono Program

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (“DVAP”) is conducting a Pro Bono Program to attempt to place a limited number of civil appeals with appellate counsel who will represent the appellant before the Fifth Court of Appeals. The goal of the program is to match clients who are financially unable to obtain legal representation with volunteer lawyers who agree to serve without expectation of compensation for their service.

The Pro Bono Program is administered completely by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. The Fifth Court of Appeals has no direct role in screening or selecting cases for inclusion in the Program.

If you lack the financial means to pay for an appellate attorney and indicate your desire to be included in the Pro Bono Program, as explained in this Pamphlet, you may be considered for participation in the Program. Even if you had paid counsel in the trial court, you can indicate your interest in seeking a pro bono attorney through this Program if you can no longer afford an attorney to represent you on appeal. As explained below, you may indicate your desire to participate in this program by noting your interest in the Docketing Statement filed with the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no guarantee that DVAP will select your case for inclusion in the Program or, that pro bono counsel can be found to represent you. Accordingly, you should not forego seeking other counsel to represent you in any proceeding.

The Selection Process

The Docketing Statement is one of the first documents that you file when you start an appeal. If you would like for your case to be considered for inclusion in the Pro Bono Program, the Fifth Court of Appeals’ Docketing Statement includes an area for you to indicate that you are interested in seeking pro bono representation. After you complete the Docketing Statement and indicate interest in your case being considered for possible inclusion in the Program, a copy of your Docketing Statement will be forwarded to DVAP for screening. To assist the screening process, it is very important that you fill out the Docketing Statement carefully and completely so that DVAP will have as much information as possible when considering your appeal.

By filling out the request for consideration, you are agreeing that members of the DVAP screening committee can contact the counsel of record in the trial court to ask for clarification of questions or issues as to your case. These conversations will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law and used solely for purposes of the selection process. You are also authorizing DVAP to transmit basic, publicly available, facts about your case via the Internet to a pool of volunteer lawyers in an attempt to find an appellate lawyer to take your case.

DVAP screens and selects civil cases for inclusion in the Program based upon a number of discretionary criteria, including the financial means of the appellant. DVAP uses 150% of U.S. Poverty Guidelines as a benchmark for determining whether an appellant qualifies for free legal services. These guidelines are published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the following chart sets forth the relevant numbers:

The 2010 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia

Persons in family

Poverty guideline

1

$10,830

2

14,570

3

18,310

4

22,050

5

25,790

6

29,530

7

33,270

8

37,010

For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

If you have not already submitted an affidavit of indigence in the trial court, you may be asked to submit financial information as a condition of your participation in the Pro Bono Program. Although your ability to pay for legal counsel is not the only factor the DVAP screening committee evaluates for participation in the Pro Bono Program, it is nonetheless a significant factor in the committee’s decision-making process.

There are a number of other factors that DVAP considers in deciding whether to place an appeal in the Program, including the number of appeals currently in the program, the number of available volunteer lawyers, and the issues presented. If DVAP recommends that a case be included in the Program and a volunteer lawyer agrees to take the case, you will receive a communication from the committee within approximately 30-40 days of submitting your Docketing Statement notifying you of the match.

The Attorneys

DVAP in conjunction with the Appellate Law Section of the Dallas Bar Association has undertaken a substantial recruiting effort to enlist pro bono appellate lawyers willing to volunteer their time to take on cases selected for inclusion in the Program, as well as other specialty pro bono programs that DVAP is sponsoring.

Placement of Cases in the Program

When an appeal is identified by DVAP as a candidate for the Program, DVAP provides limited information regarding the case, such as the nature of the case, issues on appeal, the status of appellate proceedings, and any impending deadlines, and solicits volunteers to take the case. Based upon the responses, DVAP will make an appropriate match.

If your case is chosen and counsel is located, DVAP will send you a communication advising you of the match, providing contact information for your proposed pro bono attorney and advising you that you and the volunteer lawyer will decide whether or not to proceed with any representation.

Representation in the Appeal

If a volunteer lawyer is matched with your case through the Program, that lawyer will be your lawyer in handling the appeal on your behalf in the Fifth Court of Appeals from that point forward. He or she will prepare the briefs and any necessary motions and present oral argument to the Court of Appeals if argument is ordered.

The scope of the representation is limited to the appeal in the Fifth Court of Appeals and terminates once those proceedings are concluded—typically after the opinion issues, or the Court rules on any timely filed motions for rehearing. If you are unsuccessful in the Fifth Court of Appeals, but desire to go forward to the Texas Supreme Court, you will need to make other arrangements for representation in that court, unless your Pro Bono counsel agrees in writing to undertake the further representation. Please be advised that the Pro Bono Committee of the State Bar of Texas has a program with the Texas Supreme Court, although the procedures and requirements for that program necessarily differ from this one.


 

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