Pro Bono Opportunities

Programs for Self-Represented Parties at the
Central District of California Bankruptcy Court

Los Angeles Division:
The Debtor Assistance Project (DAP) began as the Court’s first effort to make pro bono programs available to the public within its geographic area. In the Los Angeles Division alone, the DAP places between 75-100 chapter 7 cases and adversary proceeding with pro bono counsel each year. It has become the umbrella committee and resource for projects throughout the district for all self-represented parties. The DAP is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section and the Public Counsel Law Center. It works closely with a number of other legal clinics throughout the district to provide free legal services to qualifying debtors and self-help support to all parties in the bankruptcy court. The DAP holds bi-monthly meetings at the Court, bringing together representatives from public interest law firms, volunteer attorneys, chapter 7 and 13 trustee representatives, bankruptcy judges, Clerk’s Office, and members of the office of the U.S. trustee. The DAP raises funds and awareness for its programs, provides training for pro bono attorneys, and exchanges information on trends and issues related to providing pro bono and self-help assistance as well as best practices.

         Non-Dischargeability Representation
Public Counsel locates pro bono attorneys for self-represented debtors in non-dischargeability adversary proceedings. A notice is sent by the court advising the debtor to contact Public Counsel if they need assistance. Income screening is then done by Public Counsel before a volunteer attorney is assigned. The attorneys then represent pro se debtors in non-dischargeability proceedings.

        Reaffirmation Agreement Clinic
This program provides pro bono assistance at Reaffirmation Agreement hearings. Reaffirmation Agreement hearings for participating judges at a particular division are bundled together, usually twice each month. This enables pro bono attorneys, coordinated by Public Counsel, to offer debtors information about their rights in a consultation that takes place outside the courtroom before the hearing. Public Counsel has also made arrangements with students from the California State University Los Angeles Interpreter Program to provide Spanish translation services for the Reaffirmation Agreement clinic, both during the attorney consultation and in court.

        Self Help Desk
The Los Angeles Division launched an onsite self-help desk in 2009 that serves the public two days each week. The self-help desk provides self-represented debtors and creditors with chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy information, forms, access to reference material, and provides referrals for additional legal assistance. Income eligible individuals can also attend a chapter 7 self-help clinic. The Los Angeles Division self-help desk is sponsored by Public Counsel, the Central District Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Association (CDCBAA), and the Los Angeles County Bar Association - Commercial Law & Bankruptcy Subcommittee’s Debtor Assistance Project.

        Chapter 7 Representation
Income qualified debtors may receive pro bono representation from Public Counsel where volunteer attorneys can be found. As the demand for representation is greater than the availability of volunteers, the self help programs are designed to assist those debtors with simple cases and the ability to represent themselves more effectively. Public Counsel locates attorney volunteers through the CDCBAA, the Los Angeles and San Fernando County Bar Associations, and the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum. Bet Tzedek Legal Services also provides a chapter 7 instruction clinic once a month with priority given to those who are disabled or 55 years of age or older, followed by individual representation where needed. The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles also holds regular clinics and assists debtors in preparing their cases for filing on their own.

Riverside Division:

The Public Service Law Corporation of the Riverside County Bar Association offers limited free legal services and bankruptcy seminars for pro se debtors located in the area served by the Riverside Division. The Court made space available at the Riverside Division for the Public Service Law Corporation to provide pro bono and self-help services. In a joint effort, the District Court and the Bankruptcy Court plan to open a self-help desk in November of 2011.

        Non-Dischargeabilty Defense
The Inland Empire Bankruptcy Forum has provided non-dischargeability defense on a limited ad hoc basis when it can locate volunteer attorneys.

Santa Ana Division:

        Legal Clinic
The Santa Ana Division has a weekly onsite legal clinic operated by Public Law Center that provides free legal advice for self-represented parties in chapter 7 bankruptcy cases. Public Law Center also provides pro bono representation in chapter 7 cases with attorneys from the local bar, when available. The legal clinic is co-sponsored by the Orange County Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association – Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section, and the Orange County Bankruptcy Forum. Orange County Legal Aid also holds a weekly chapter 7 clinic and assists debtors in filing on their own if it is a no asset case.

        Reaffirmation Agreement Clinic
The Santa Ana Division has a Reaffirmation Agreement clinic similar to the one in Los Angeles. The clinic is operated by the Public Law Center with volunteers from the local bar.

        Non-Dischargeabilty Defense
The Public Law Center has provided non-dischargeability defense on an ad hoc basis when it can locate volunteer attorneys.

Northern Division:

        Consumer Debt Clinic

Serving Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties, a consumer debt clinic was formed and began operation in 2009 in Lompoc before moving to the Northern Division in 2010. The clinic is operated by the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (LAFSBC). Volunteer staff attorneys are available twice each month to answer questions about individual consumer debt issues. Volunteer staff attorneys also answer questions by parties who attend the self-help clinic.

        Reaffirmation Agreement Clinic
The Santa Barbara County Bar Association arranges for volunteer attorneys to meet with self-represented debtors before each Reaffirmation Agreement hearing.

San Fernando Valley Division:

        Self Help Desk
The San Fernando Valley Division opened the Court’s first onsite self-help desk in 2007. The self-help desk is operated by Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles, the Central District Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Association, and the San Fernando Valley Bar Association. Self-represented debtors and creditors are assisted two days a week. Pro bono attorneys from the two bar associations hold weekly seminars and provide free legal information on bankruptcy. Topics commonly covered include bankruptcy filing requirements, the difference between chapter 7 and chapter 13, and where to find a bankruptcy attorney. The self-help desk also provides computers for debtors to view “Bankruptcy Basics” videos in addition to other videos regarding key principles of bankruptcy.

        Reaffirmation Agreement Clinic
The San Fernando Valley Division judges also participate in the Reaffirmation Agreement program operated by Public Counsel (see Los Angeles Division for more details). More recently, the San Fernando Valley Division has partnered with California State University Los Angeles and California State University Northridge to make Spanish translation services available at Reaffirmation Agreement hearings at no cost.

        Non-Dischargeability Representation
Public Counsel locates pro bono attorneys for self-represented debtors in non-dischargeability adversary proceedings in the same manner as that done in Los Angeles.

        Chapter 7 Representation
Income qualified debtors may receive pro bono representation from Public Counsel where volunteer attorneys can be found as part of the same program serving the Los Angeles Division. Bet Tzedek Legal Services also provides representation to individuals with a priority to those who are disabled or 55 years of age or older.