The members of your local FBA chapter have given generously to improve the administration of justice in the West Michigan community. In this section of the website, we provide information about a scholarship program for law students, the creation of a Pro Bono fund to cover case costs for attorneys who volunteer to handle cases for persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney, contributions made by our judicial officers, how chapter funds have been used to improve the technology available in the courtroom, and our efforts to improve civility.
Pro Bono Case Cost Fund
Contributions from the Courts
Standards for Civility in Professional Conduct
The Western Michigan Chapter of the FBA awards annually $4,500 in scholarships to law students. In the recent past, we have granted scholarships of $1,500 each to 3 students. Recipients are selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership ability and commitment to community service.
Applicants must meet two basic criteria: (1) acceptance to, or enrollment at, an accredited law school; and (2) interest in practicing law in the Western District of Michigan. In reviewing applications, the FBA scholarship committee considers factors such as permanent residence, or prior employment experience in the legal profession in the Western District of Michigan. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed at least one semester of law school. Those students who at the time of application or during its consideration are married to, or a child of, a member of the FBA, or married to, or a child of, a member of the federal judiciary of the Western District of Michigan are not eligible.
Applicants should include a resume and prepare a written statement, not to exceed three single-spaced pages, outlining why the applicant should be considered for the scholarship, how he or she plans to use it and what the applicant's plans are after graduating from law school. Qualifications may include such things as academic standing, participation in moot court, law review, or other legal education activities, professional experience, community involvement or anything else the candidate believes to be relevant and appropriate for consideration by the committee.
The scholarship committee typically sends letters to area law schools in late July or early August outlining the program and setting forth deadlines for submission of applications. Students, please contact your law school's Director of Financial Aid for this information. Scholarships are usually awarded at the annual meeting of the FBA held in October.
Pro Bono Case Cost Fund
In January of 2003, the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan adopted a Pro Bono Plan for the appointment of counsel in civil cases. The Plan was developed through a common commitment by the Court and the Western District Federal Bar Association to address issues facing the poor and unrepresented in the Court.
Magistrate Judge Carmody supervises and oversees the program for the Court. Twenty-three attorneys, recruited by the WDFBA, are presently participating in the program as panel attorneys. When a judge determines that pro bono counsel should be appointed in a particular case, the matter is referred to Magistrate Judge Carmody. A panel attorney is selected and appointed by Magistrate Judge Carmody. Counsel have been appointed in all cases where a request has been made. The WDFBA has provided some training on litigating prisoner cases.
Included in the program is a fund to enable discovery and defray other expenses. The fund was established with grants from the Court and the WDFBA and is administered through the Grand Rapids Bar Association. Magistrate Judge Carmody and two members of the Bar Association oversee the fund. All requests for reimbursement from the fund have been granted. Advances are possible.
The Pro Bono Plan can be accessed at the Court's website at www.miwd.uscourts.gov. Attorneys who wish to participate in the program should contact Judge Carmody at (616)456-2528.
Contributions from the Courts
The Article III and bankruptcy and magistrate judges of the Western District of Michigan have made countless contributions to the success of the Western District of the FBA. For example, the Honorable Douglas W. Hillman was instrumental in creating the annual trial skills workshop that now bears his name. Created in 1981, the workshop continues to provide the finest training available to new lawyers in the art of advocacy. The judges of the Western District have answered the call by agreeing to speak at seminars, chairing committees and sharing their viewpoints on Federal procedural and substantive law.
The Court has also assisted the Western District FBA financially, by contributing funds for the purchase of an evidence cart that is available for use by all attorneys admitted to practice in the Western District.
The Western District FBA and the Federal Court together contributed approximately $25,000 to purchase an evidence cart for use in the courthouses in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. The equipment includes a 3500 Lumen wireless projector, a document camera, a DVD player, a VCR player, an annotation tablet, a touch panel, a touch screen monitor and a mobile screen. All of the equipment is housed in a wheeled cart that can be moved from courtroom to courtroom. The system allows attorneys (or their paralegals) to project documents, drawings, pictures and other images on a screen large enough for all trial participants to see. Trial presentation software allows those images to be enhanced or annotated by the witnesses or the attorneys.
All attorneys are encouraged to use the evidence cart at trial. There is no charge for the use of the cart and training is available. Attorneys should plan on bringing their own laptop computers equipped with trial presentation software. The court staff has experience with using Trial Director and Sanction trial presentation software. These products are available at www.indatacorp.com and www.sanction.com.