Volunteer lawyers to offer free advice

Posted Oct. 29, 2009, at 10:18 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project has announced the creation of an Appellate Pro Bono Project to provide free legal help to litigants who appeal a civil case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, praised the development of a pilot project in Cumberland County. The program is expected to be expanded throughout the state once the yearlong pilot project is completed.

“In more than 10 percent of the cases that come before the Law Court, at least one, and possibly both, litigants are not represented by counsel,” she said in a recent press release. “Litigants are greatly benefited when experienced lawyers help them in preparing the case for appellate review and in presenting the legal arguments to the court. We are very pleased to have this additional assistance to people in Maine.”

Four Portland law firms — Bernstein Shur, Pierce Atwood, Preti Flaherty and Verrill Dana — have agreed to take a total of 20 cases over the next 12 months, according to Juliet Holmes-Smith, director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

The Maine State Bar Association also supports the project.

“This project gives private attorneys yet another way to provide pro bono services,” Virginia Davis, president of the group, said in the press release. “Maine attorneys have a national reputation for providing pro bono representation. This is just one more example of Maine attorneys stepping up to do the right thing.”

The Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project coordinates the volunteer efforts of Maine attorneys and community members to help low-income people navigate the civil justice system, according to information on its Web site, http://www.vlp.org.

For information, call 774-4348.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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