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Pro Bono Opportunities

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

Los Angeles Division:
The Bankruptcy Self-Represented Litigants Committee 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 Bankruptcy Self-Represented Litigants Committee places between 75-100 chapter 7 cases and adversary proceeding with pro bono counsel each year. Formerly known as the DAP, the Bankruptcy SRL Committee has become the umbrella committee and resource for projects throughout the district for all self-represented parties. When operating as the DAP, the group was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bar Association Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section and the Public Counsel Law Center. The Bankruptcy SRL Committee continues to work 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 Committee 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 Bankruptcy Self-Represented Litigants Committee 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.

        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 Bankruptcy Self-Represented Litigants Committee.

        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. 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 (Riverside Legal Aid) operates a self-help clinic two days each week, located in the Bankruptcy Court in Riverside.  The clinic offers pre-filing and post-filing legal assistance primarily in Chapter 7 proceedings to both debtors and creditors.  Limited assistance is offered in Chapter 13 proceedings. Public Chapter 7 self-help workshops are also offered quarterly on Saturdays in both Riverside and Cathedral City.

        Non-Dischargeabilty Defense
The clinic also provides procedural and substantive advice to both unrepresented debtors and low-income creditors in non-dischargability adversary proceedings, and seeks volunteers to provide pro bono representation in some cases.

        Coachella Valley Services
RLA holds Chapter 7 self-help clinics on the fourth Monday of each month and quarterly Saturday public Chapter 7 workshops in the Cathedral City Public Library.

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 and Bankruptcy Debt Clinic

The Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (LAFSBC) sponsors the Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy Clinic, which provides free information to consumers regarding financial debt and bankruptcy matters. The clinic serves Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties and operates every Friday (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.) out of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern Division. Volunteer attorneys answer questions on a first-come, first-served basis. 

        Videoconferencing Program
During regular clinic hours, volunteer attorneys assist consumers in the Paso Robles Courthouse (San Luis Obispo county) via remote video feed.

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).

        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.