Equal Access to Justice Panel


Equal Access to Justice Panel

Serving: Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Clay, Craighead, Cleburne, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Green, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Madison, Marion, Mississippi, Monroe, Newton, Phillips, Poinsett, Randolph, St. Francis, Searcy, Sharp, Stone, Van Buren, Washington and Woodruff Counties

  1. What is the Equal Access to Justice Panel?
  2. Why Was It Created?
  3. What is a Private Attorney Involvement Program?
  4. What Are the Project's Activities and Services?
  5. Is there Technical Assistance?
  6. What if I am already a member of Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly (AVLE)
  7. Can Court Reporters Volunteer?
  8. Are there any Materials and Services to help Pro Bono Attorneys?
  9. What are the Pro Bono Awards?
  10. How Does EAJP Work?
  11. What Resources and Benefits are there?
  12. Whom should I contact?


What is the Equal Access to Justice Panel?
The Equal Access to Justice Panel began as the Pro Bono Project of Legal Services of Northeast Arkansas in 1995. Legal Aid of Arkansas was created by the merger of Legal Services of Northeast Arkansas, Ozark Legal Services and East Arkansas Legal Services in January of 2002. The Equal Access to Justice Panel works cooperatively with local Bar Associations, the Arkansas Bar  Association  through the Arkansas Pro Bono partnership,  individual private attorneys and communities to develop and administer a pro bono private attorney/Bar involvement program in the thirty-one counties Legal Aid of Arkansas serves. It assists in civil cases for low-income clients of Legal Aid of Arkansas.

The Baxter, Benton, Boone-Newton, Carroll, Cleburne, Madison, Marion, Searcy-Van Buren, Stone, Tri-County and Washington County Bar Associations, all of whom worked cooperatively with the Ozark Legal Services Pro Bono Panel, won the prestigious Harrison Tweed Award from the American Bar Association in 1991 recognizing their achievement as the nation's most outstanding pro bono project for cooperative delivery of free legal services to the rural poor. Read stories about some of EAJP attorneys' recent work helping Arkansans in need. ^ Back to Top

Why Was It Created?
Pro Bono is a principle long established in the legal community.  Model Rule 6.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct sets out the parameters for measuring that commitment for every attorney in Arkansas.  It is the first important step on the road to civil justice for hundreds of thousands of our fellow Arkansans who cannot afford legal representation. Volunteers provide advice and representation on a wide range of civil legal matters such as guardianships, bankruptcy, divorce, housing issues, wills and deceptive trade practices. ^ Back to Top

 What is a Private Attorney Involvement Program?
A Pro Bono/Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) Program provides an organized opportunity for lawyers to volunteer their time to represent low income individuals or groups who cannot afford to pay for legal services. ^ Back to Top

The Unites States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas pro­vides exemptions from Federal civil court appointments for lawyers who are members of pro bono legal organizations, such as the Panel, and who can certify that they have donated twenty or more hours of free legal services in the last 12 months.   Pursuant to Local Rule 83.7, monetary contributions alone will no longer exempt a lawyer from a civil court appointment.  Attorneys must have actually represented a pro bono client[s]  in either (a) litigation, or (b) a non-litigation matter, the aggregate of which the attorney can certify required the expenditure of a minimum of twenty [20] hours of time. ^ Back to Top

What Are the Project's Activities and Services?
The Equal Access to Justice Panel is available to assist local Bar Associations, individual private attorneys and com­munity organizations in addressing the unmet civil legal needs of their communities. In addition to offering advice and tech­nical assistance, the Panel coordinates pro bono activities throughout thirty-one Northwest, North Central and Eastern counties in Arkansas, works with Bar leadership to increase pro bono contributions, identifies areas where pro bono pro­grams are needed and disseminates necessary information. Specifically the activities and services provided include:

  • Technical Assistance
    Interested groups and individuals are encouraged to contact the Panel office for technical assistance regarding pro bono pro­grams and projects in which the Panel can engage throughout the thirty-one counties served by Legal Aid of Arkansas. The Pro Bono Manager and staff are available for onsite visits to assist in evaluating local needs and to provide advice for program development and services for the community. ^ Back to Top
  • Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly (AVLE)
    The Equal Access to Justice Panel works in cooperation with and provides financial support to Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly. To encourage participation, attorneys that vol­unteer for both projects are asked to accept a maximum of four free cases annually for both projects or to donate a maximum of forty (40) hours pro bono. ^ Back to Top
  • Volunteer Court Reporters (VCR)
    VCR is a statewide coalition of volunteer court reporters who donate up to three free hours yearly of court reporter time for volunteer attorneys needing depositions or transcripts of Court proceedings. ^ Back to Top
  • Materials and Services
    The Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership web site at www.arlegalservices.org has automated forms, pleadings and sample client letters.  The Poverty Law Practice Manual is available online as a desk reference or as a web site wiki that allows you the advocate to search browse and even edit the Poverty Law Practice Manuel.  Pro Bono law students at the University of Arkansas School of  Law handle research requests for volunteer attorneys and are placed with volunteer attorneys as clerks to help on  any referred  cases.  Legal Aid of Arkansas will make any of its staff or materials available to volunteers to help on any referred case. ^ Back to Top
  • Pro Bono Awards
    On Law Day the Equal Access to Justice Panel recognizes an attorney in each county who has made significant contributions to low income clients and or the community as a whole through their pro bono services.  Attorneys who donate ten or more hours of free service are recognized with Certificates of Achievement. ^ Back to Top
  • See the Outstanding Volunteer Attorney Awards for 2009

How Does EAJP Work?
The Equal Access to Justice Panel provides pro bono (free) represen­tation to low income clients who qualify for Legal Aid of Arkansas assistance.  The financial eligibility guidelines are determined by the Board of Directors of Legal Aid of Arkansas using the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and are available upon request.  The income guidelines are based upon 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. ^ Back to Top

The Equal Access to Justice Panel makes the referral process beneficial for both the client and attorney. Every effort is made to tailor the procedures to suit the needs of individual lawyers, whether sole practitioners or those in larger firms. Referrals are made in areas where volunteers have expertise and are willing to provide services in a manner that allows minimal disruption to the attorney's existing practice. ^ Back to Top

To make certain that the volunteer attorneys spend their valuable time most productively, the following services are provided:

  • Screening - All clients are screened by the staff at Legal Aid of Arkansas to ensure they are eligible for free legal assistance.
  • Case Review - All cases are reviewed prior to referral to determine whether the client has a legal problem and if the legal problem is one that, by federal regulations, Legal Aid of Arkansas can provide assistance with.
  • Referral – Volunteers designate how they wish to receive their cases: by mail, phone, fax or email.  Volunteers receive monthly email case summaries of clients that need assistance.  Once the client and attorney have been notified of the referral the client contacts the volunteer to schedule a time to meet concerning their legal problem.
  • Primary Malpractice Coverage on all pro bono cases.
  • Free and Discounted CLE Courses. 
  • Online Resources
    • Online Legal Library: Over 900 forms, sample client letters, intake questions, and fact sheets. (click here - you will need your pro bono password)
    • Poverty Law Practice Manuel: (wiki and PDF available): The manual contains an overview of each area of poverty law as well as statutes and pleadings. The manual is available in PDF          format if you prefer a printable version. (click here - you will need your pro bono password)
    • Automated Document Assembly: LexisNexis HotDocs™ technology is available through the Online Legal Library.  Look for court form links that begin with “Interactive Form” to         utilize this time-saving technology. (click here - you will need your pro bono password)
    •  E-Newsletter Case Alerts (Select your case online!!!) (click here for archives)
  • Mentor Link - Experienced volunteer attorneys are available and receive pro bono credit to help less expe­rienced volunteer attorneys on their cases. Mentor attor­neys help with depositions, trial preparation, motions practice or assist with proceedings before a particular judge or jury. The goal of the Panel is to make it as easy as possible to volunteer and still provide excellent results for the client.
  • Costs – The client pays the fees and costs associated with representation and the attorney provides free services.  Some clients may be eligible to proceed without the payment of the fees with the Judge’s permission. Attorneys can be reimbursed for out of pocket costs incurred up to $50.00 and more if they obtain prior approval.

For more information or to volunteer, please contact:

Heidi Jamison, Pro Bono Coordinator
1200 Henryette Street, Springdale, AR 72762 
870-972-9224  x4314

Maria Tommey, AVLE Coordiantor
1200 Henryette Street, Springdale, AR 72762 
870-972-9224  x6301


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