For almost a decade, the Pro Se Project has provided access to federal courts for people who might not otherwise have such access. Tiffany Sanders has held the reins now for eight of those years.
An initiative of the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, the project has depended on volunteer lawyers to improve the administration of justice on behalf of more than 1,000 clients so far.
“A judge must refer a litigant to the project,” said Sanders. “The litigants I work with have all kinds of civil matters pending in federal court. They’re typically in the early stages of their lawsuits.”
While the Pro Se Project does no financial screening before accepting clients, Sanders said most of them are indigent. To help bring attention to their cause, Sanders has called on judges to speak at a gathering of each of the major law firms in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, emphasizing the representation of people with disabilities.
“I hope I’m helping people, and in my little way, the justice system,” said Sanders.
Nationally recognized for its work, the Pro Se Project received the American Bar Association’s prestigious Harrison Tweed Award.
“You always want to do more,” said Sanders. “There’s no constitutional right to an attorney in civil matters. There’s no civil equivalent of Gideon v. Wainwright. This is about as close as we can get to helping with that.”