DC Court of Appeals Kicks-off Pro Bono Appellate Mediation Program

On Thursday, November 1, the DC Court of Appeals (DCCA) kicked off its new Pro Bono Appellate Mediation program, with Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby, Judge Phyllis Thompson, Clerk of Court Julio Castillo and Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Herb Rouson. They were joined by DC Bar President Esther Lim and many attorneys interested in enhancing access to justice through this new program. Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their ongoing commitment to pro bono service, and their interest in this new initiative. Under the leadership of the DCCA’s Mediation Coordinator, Ms. Amaza 'Scottie' Reid, the appellate mediation program has taken root and gained wide-spread exposure in the city. However, since the mediation program’s guidelines required both parties to be represented by attorneys, the DCCA Pro Bono Appellate Mediation program is designed to extend the availability -- and the benefits that mediation can provide -- to individuals that are not represented by attorneys in their appellate cases. Establishing a panel (or roster) of pro bono counsel to assist litigants who are interested in mediation, will help close the “legal services gap” that often exists within the city. DC Bar President Esther Lim, who has made increasing pro bono service to both the DCCA and the DC Superior Court by members of the Bar a hallmark of her tenure as president, spoke about this need; and about the importance of pro bono service by all members of the DC Bar. She pointed out that regardless of an attorney's area of expertise, there were opportunities to assist those who cannot afford counsel. Ms. Reid then explained more about how the program will work - the training that the Court and the DC Bar will provide, the ability for attorneys to do 'limited scope' representation (to handle just the mediation), the opportunities for counsel to actually represent the client in the appeal if mediation doesn’t yield an agreement/settlement, and the advantages for both the client and the attorney(s) by offering their services. Ms. Reid will be retiring in a few weeks, but is actively coordinating with her successor, Ms. Jennifer Gartlan, for a seamless transition. Chief Judge Blackburne-Rigsby told Scottie that she will be missed a great deal, but expressed appreciation for her having established a solid foundation for the program that the Court can now build upon.