Bond Launches Pro Bono Prisoner Litigation Training Initiative

January 22, 2013

(Syracuse, NY): In the State of New York among the thousands of inmates in State and Federal correctional institutions, there are inmates who complain about their conditions of confinement which may be a violation of their constitutional rights, and they file lawsuits in Federal Court. If a Federal Judge concludes that a prisoner’s claim may have merit, the Judge can appoint a lawyer to represent the prisoner on a pro bono basis since an arguably meritorious claim of a constitutional violation is so fundamental to the principle of access to justice.  Accordingly, the Federal Courts request that private attorneys represent these prisoner litigants and Bond, Schoeneck & King historically has responded, zealously representing the interests of those prisoners.

Bond, now, however, has decided to address this demand from a different perspective, that is, as an affirmative opportunity for its young attorneys to develop jury trial experience. Whether litigation is a complex commercial dispute between two corporations or a dispute between a prisoner and prison officials, there are a variety of fundamental similarities to many matters of the litigation, such as the art of selecting a jury, preparing witnesses to testify before a jury, conducting  cross-examinations, summing up and closing to a jury, and the like.

In order to further train its young attorneys with respect to these arts, Bond is affirmatively seeking appointments by the Courts in prisoner litigation. This initiative is lead by former Federal Judge George H. Lowe, who retired from the bench in February of 2012 and returned to the firm in an “of counsel” capacity. He had been Chair of the firm’s Litigation Department before  becoming a Judge, and, prior to joining the firm, he had served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York.

Throughout the State of New York Judge Lowe is requesting the Federal Courts to appoint him as a prisoner’s pro bono counsel. Upon such appointment, Judge Lowe then confers with Bond Department Chairs and Regional Office Managing Members in whatever location the case is venued, to identify a young attorney who, under the Judge’s guidance, will prepare and try the case. And while the Judge will play a significant support role in any case, the trial counsel will be the firm’s young attorney.

The firm is confident that through this new initiative the firm’s prisoner clients will achieve what they deserve, i.e., quality and zealous advocacy. However, in addition, the firm, and ultimately its clients, will benefit by the development of jury trial experience among its attorneys.