Farewell to the Appellate Division’s Civil Pro Bono Program, But ….

Those of us who have handled pro bono appeals in the Appellate Division received notice from that court today that its Civil Pro Bono Program is being suspended.  The notice stated that “[d]ue to changes to the judiciary website the link to the pro bono cases is no longer active.  In addition, changes to security protocols make the prior system no longer secure.  Therefore, the Appellate Civil Pro Bono Program is now suspended.”

That part of the notice made it seem that technology changes had overtaken the need to provide pro bono appellate services in civil matters.  Fortunately, the notice did not end there.  “In order to continue to help the pro se litigants, [the Appellate Division Clerk’s Office] will be compiling a list of attorneys who are interested in doing appellate pro bono work.”  Recipients of the notice were then invited to place their names, contact information, and preferred types of cases on that list, which “will be made available under the Appellate Division’s website for future appeals.”  The plan appears to be that, going forward, pro se appellants will be able to contact listed counsel directly, instead of going through the Appellate Division Clerk’s Office as before.

I have had a particular interest in the Civil Pro Bono Program, which was established at the urging of Judge Stern, who was then the Presiding Judge for Administration, while I was Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Committee, as discussed here.  A number of lawyers at my firm, Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, have gotten valuable appellate experience by handling appeals under the Program, and the Appellate Division has expressed its appreciation to lawyers who take on such pro bono appeals.

The now-suspended Program was limited to certain types of appeals.  It is not clear whether the cases to be offered to the new list of appellate pro bono counsel will be similarly limited.  Regardless, however, there is a significant need for appellate pro bono lawyers in civil cases.  Apart from the time to handle such an appeal, the only investment necessary has been the cost of the transcript(s) below.  Readers who have not been participants in the Program (and therefore did not receive today’s notice) but would like to get on the new civil pro bono list can contact me for information as to how to do that.

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