By: Aaron J. Williamson, Attorney
The Indiana State Bar Association (ISBA) encourages attorneys to promote equal access to justice through pro bono work for underserved residents. The United
States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has a growing need for volunteer attorneys to assist pro se litigants. This Court also provides a vehicle for volunteer lawyers to help; it is called the Mediation Assistance Program (MAP). The MAP program allowed me to fulfill ISBA’s charge.
This program is designed to provide legal representation in civil cases for pro se litigants at settlement conferences with Magistrate Judges. It has the added benefit of helping lawyers, especially young lawyers, obtain hands-on experience in federal cases. For example, in my first year of practice, I was able to participate in client calls, strategy meetings, engage in informal discovery requests, and was our “fact expert” at the settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker. In addition to this valuable experience and exposure, MAP afforded me the opportunity, through a settlement conference, to help represent an individual who was suffering from a painful skin condition.
On December 22, 2015, I, along with my colleagues Lynn Toops and Vess Miller, had the opportunity to serve as court-appointed MAP Counsel in pro bono service to a pro se litigant. Our client was a prisoner who was suing a former regional medical director at the prison for intentional indifference to his serious medical needs. Our client had endured a skin condition, which caused thickening, darkening, sores, and a tightening sensation to his face. Moreover, he alleged that his face would bleed whenever he attempted to wash it. After several hours of negotiation, the case did not reach settlement, however, I was pleased to help represent our client during the settlement conference process. As a new attorney, I learned valuable lessons working beside my colleagues and in participating in my first federal court settlement conference.
I was honored to participate in the Mediation Assistance Program and would recommend this program to any and all firms and especially to young lawyers. Involvement in MAP will afford hands-on experience before federal judges and provide much-needed legal representation to aggrieved individuals. If you are interested in serving as Mediation Assistance Program counsel, please contact United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Staff Attorney Kristine Seufert at 317-229-3954.