ACCESS TO JUSTICE
BY JAMES FOGG
If you're reading this article, it's probably safe to assume you enjoy helping others solve problems. If that's true, consider getting involved in the new Federal Limited Appearance Program (FLAP). By working with FLAP, you'll not only assist citizens in need, but also gain valuable skills and "stand-up" experience in federal court.
"America's courts are built on a system of rules and procedures that assume that almost everyone who comes to court has a lawyer."1 But the average Coloradan—who in 2018 made $26.84 per hour2—cannot come close to paying an attorney his or her average fee of $200 to $300 per hour.3 As a result, many people try to solve their civil legal problems on their own, as pro se litigants. In 2017, "86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help."4 And the problem isn't isolated to those struggling to make ends meet; it affects most middle-class Americans.5 Indeed, 70% to 98% of cases in American civil courts involve at least one pro se litigant.6 Unfortunately, appearing pro se poses challenges to the litigant (and the litigant's adversary), and creates inefficiencies for the court.7 At the same time, lawyers find themselves with fewer opportunities to appear in court. That is particularly true for young lawyers in civil practice.8
Tackling this issue requires a multifaceted approach that includes the provision of pro bono legal representation for entire civil actions, as well as various forms of limited representation (also known as unbundled legal services).9 The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (Court) and the Colorado Bar Association are, in many ways, at the forefront of those efforts. In 2014, the Court implemented the Civil Pro Bono Panel, which coordinates pro bono representation in entire actions.10 In 2016, the Court revised its Local Rules to broaden the scope of unbundled legal services.11 And in 2019, the Court, with assistance from the CBA, established the Federal Pro Se Clinic, which provides pro se litigants free assistance, on a limited-scope basis, with out-of-court case strategy, filing preparation, and navigation of the legal process.12 But there are still gaps to fill...