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The Pro Se Project: 10 Years of Enhancing Access to Justice

The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Pro Se Project, which provides legal representation for people who otherwise could not afford it. Instead of having to go it alone in the legal system, parties get help from experienced lawyers willing to serve on a volunteer basis.

The Pro Se Project’s success has been staggering. Over its first 10 years it has received national acclaim for providing representation for approximately 1,400 parties by over 500 volunteer lawyers from 160 different law firms. In February 2021, the Project issued its Decennial Report. Of the vast array of cases handled through the Pro Se Project, the Decennial Report featured three “impact” stories to illustrate the effort’s importance and show the kinds of compelling matters where justice requires a fair fight. One such case was handled by our attorneys Virginia McCalmont and Caitlinrose Fisher with the assistance of our David Wallace-Jackson and Erin Sindberg Porter of Jones Day.

The case Caitlinrose and Ginny handled was Al-Kadi v. Ramsey County, described in detail in the Decennial Report at pp. 55-56. At its core, the case involved the humiliation of a woman, Ms. Al-Kadi, held in custody by law enforcement and subjected to treatment that violated her religious beliefs. Ginny and Caitlinrose worked to vindicate Ms. Al-Kadi’s rights and were eventually, along with Erin and David, recognized as Minnesota Attorneys of the Year for their work.

As Chief Judge John R. Tunheim wrote in the preface to the Decennial Report, “Access to justice is, and always will be, an indispensable element of the rule of law. Ensuring voices are heard when legal rights are threatened will remain a necessity for the legitimacy of our Court.”

At Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP, we are committed to providing world-class legal services to all of our clients, from Fortune 500 companies to individuals with meritorious claims. Along with other like-minded firms, we help to ensure access to the civil-justice system.