Pro Bono Legal Service Rule Interpretations

The Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service has been called upon four times for rule interpretations. They are:

UNITED WAY DESIGNATION

The Standing Committee at its meeting on March 25, 1994 adopted the following rule interpretation regarding United Way designation:

If adopted as part of the circuit pro bono plan by a circuit pro bono committee, a contribution to United Way from a lawyer in such circuit which is designated to a legal aid organization can satisfy the contribution option under Rule 4-61, Pro Bono Public Service, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, provided that:

  • The entire designated amount, except for a small administrative fee, is transferred to the designated legal aid organization; and
  • The designated contribution does not reduce or replace an existing United Way allocation to the designated legal aid organization; and
  • The designated contribution does not cause a reduction in future United Way allocations to the designated legal aid organization; and
  • All legal aid organizations in the United Way agency's jurisdiction are eligible for designated contributions through the United Way agency.

If designated contributions are to be solicited, the circuit pro bono committee should ensure with the local United Way agency or agencies in its circuit that the designated contributions meet the requirements of the pro bono rule.

WORKING POOR

The Standing Committee at its meeting on March 25, 1994 adopted the following rule interpretation regarding the meaning of "working poor":

The Supreme Court of Florida has provided that pro bono services to the poor includes those persons frequently referred to as the "working poor" Pro bono service to those households with incomes of 125% of the federal poverty level or less include the "working poor" and should be given priority Pro bono service to persons whose household income exceeds 125% of the federal poverty level may be appropriate pro bono legal assistance to the poor under the rule if a good faith determination is made that considering the financial situation of the person needing legal assistance and the urgency and nature of the legal services needed, that access to the legal system will be unavailable without pro bono legal assistance.

TEEN COURT AND SCHOOL BASED MEDIATION PROGRAMS

The Standing Committee at its meeting on March 25, 1994 adopted the following rule interpretation regarding the eligibility of Teen Court and School Based Mediation programs:

Free legal services provided to minors through programs such as Teen Court and School Based Mediation qualify as pro bono legal assistance to the poor under Rule 4-61, Pro Bono Services, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, provided the programs predominantly provide services to minors from poor and working poor households.

REPRESENTATION OF HRS IN TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS CASES

The Standing committee at its meeting on September 16, 1994 adopted the following rule interpretation regarding volunteer representation of HRS in termination of parental rights proceedings:

Providing pro bono services to the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services in termination of parental rights proceedings for the benefit of the child where there is no guardian ad litem or no legal representation of the guardian ad litem is pro bono legal assistance to the poor within Rule 4-61, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.