Volunteer Pro Bono Opportunities

Each year, the District of South Carolina receives filings from pro se litigants, including a large number filed by prison inmates. Statistically, many of these cases are dismissed on summary judgment, but occasionally, some survive summary judgment and are tried by jury. For those cases that go to trial, it is sometimes helpful to have an attorney represent the pro se plaintiff at trial. In the past, some large law firms in South Carolina have volunteered their attorneys to participate in such trials, pro bono, in order to gain jury trial experience.

The district judges would like to offer all attorneys who practice in federal court the opportunity to participate in this pro bono activity. A volunteer attorney would be appointed only after summary judgment is denied and the case is set for trial. At that point, the volunteer attorney takes over the case to prepare for and conduct the trial. In other words, in most cases, there is no discovery to be taken; all that is required is participation at a pretrial conference, jury selection, and trial. Most judges, upon request, relieve the trial attorney from any obligation to continue in the case if an appeal is taken.

Our district has a fund consisting of monies paid by attorneys seeking pro hac vice admission. The court has approved use of this fund to reimburse limited, reasonable out-of-pocket costs of attorneys who participate in this pro bono program. This money may not be used to pay attorney’s fees. There is, of course, the possibility that if the plaintiff prevails, a motion for attorney’s fees might be available under several fee-shifting statutes. For the most part, however, pro bono attorneys should expect to recover their actual costs only, and not attorney’s fees. Actual costs include witness expenses, subpoenas, mileage, and the like.

Application Process

If you or any lawyers in your firm are interested in having your name(s) added to the list of attorneys for possible volunteer pro bono work, kindly complete this Pro Bono Application Form and return it either by mail or facsimile, as indicated on the application form.

Please record any restrictions on your involvement, such as willingness to become involved in cases of short duration only, within a certain division, or in a limited number of cases (for example, one every two years). Placing your name on the list does not automatically commit you to accepting the potential appointment, as the presiding judge will consult with you before making the appointment. You may update this form as your circumstances change, or you may remove your name from the list at any time by completing an updated form and indicating your desired changes in the other comments field.

Expense Reimbursement

Reimbursement is available for necessary and reasonable expenses up to, but not exceeding $3,000, subject to the approval of the chief judge or full court. Lawyers seeking reimbursement for pro bono expenses are required to use the Pro Bono Expenses Worksheet.

Please mail the following to the address below:

1) The original completed Pro Bono Expenses Worksheet; and
2) A letter stating the judge assigned, the case name, the case number, and a detailed explanation of your work in the case.

Pro Bono Appointments
901 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Reimbursement Information
  • Mileage rates can be accessed at the GSA website.
  • Lodging and meals expenses are limited to the GSA per diem rates. Call (803.253.3474) or email the court’s Finance office with questions regarding the GSA per diem rates and any limitations.
  • Receipts are required for anything over $50 other than in-house copies.


South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Service Credit

The South Carolina Bar has indicated that lawyers participating in this program will receive credit for pro bono service if the appropriate form (Pro Bono Intake Form) is completed.

To receive this credit, log into the South Carolina Bar website, click on Bar Members, then click on Pro Bono Programs, then go to opening a case and fill out the intake form. At the end of your representation, return to the South Carolina Bar website and close the case.

You will be covered by the Bar's professional malpractice insurance for pro bono activity upon completion of the Pro Bono Intake Form. Please note the malpractice coverage is secondary to any coverage you may already have.

If you have any questions, please call 803.765.5067.