A $10,000 grant from the Oakland County Bar Foundation will help fund a partnership between University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan designed to aid hundreds of low-income litigants who represent themselves in lawsuits before the federal court each year.
“Detroit Mercy Law is absolutely delighted with this grant and the opportunity to create a new clinic for pro se litigants. There is a real need for this type of work, and a pro se clinic will bring value to litigants, the court, and our students as well,” said Detroit Mercy Law Clinical Director Anne Yantus.
The Federal Pro Se (meaning “for oneself”) Legal Assistance Clinic is expected to begin as a one-year pilot program in January 2018, operating at the federal courthouse in Detroit. The clinic will operate three half days each week with a staff attorney and eight law students, providing limited-scope legal assistance to pro se litigants who may need help determining whether to file a suit or who need procedural advice, explanation of court orders and procedures, strategy discussions and more. The staff attorney will also serve as an adjunct professor at the School of Law.
In fiscal year 2016, non-prisoner pro se litigants filed 427 new cases, representing 10 percent of all new civil cases; Oakland County residents filed approximately 17 percent of those cases. The clinic will not support prisoner-filed cases.
Pro se clinics are found across the country and provide invaluable resources to litigants and the court. They help litigants sharpen the focus of cases that have merit, thereby increasing the litigants’ chances for success. They additionally help weed out cases with no basis for federal court jurisdiction.
Clinical experience is a requirement for all Detroit Mercy Law students, and the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic will be the eleventh in the school’s program. Other clinics are Immigration Law, Veterans Law, Veterans Appeals, Criminal Law, Appellate Advocacy with the State Appellate Defender Office, Juvenile Appeals, Patent Law, Trademark & Entrepreneur, Housing Law, and Family Law (the latter to begin in January 2018). All serve indigent and low-income clients.
Together with a generous donation from Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, PLC, the new grant from the Oakland County Bar Foundation will provide much needed support for this new clinic.