Policy for Reimbursement of Out-of-Pocket Expenses Incurred by Law Firms Representing Plaintiffs through Pro Bono Panel

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I. Background
II. Eligible Cases
III. Reimbursable Expenses Associated with Pro Bono Panel Representation

  1. Standard to Recover Out-of-Pocket Expenses
  2. Covered Out-of-Pocket Expenses
  3. Non-Covered Out-of-Pocket Expenses
  4. Limitations

IV. Procedure for Recovering Out-of-Pocket Exepnses
V. Judgment or Settlement Resulting in Recovery of Out-of-Pocket Expenses
VI. Management of Funds



I. Background

The United States District Court for the Central District of California has created a “Pro Bono Panel” of law firms to represent pro se plaintiffs who have filed civil actions with the Court. Generally, the pro se plaintiffs are prisoners claiming violations of their constitutional rights.

While the litigation is pending, the firm may incur significant out-of-pocket expenses for experts, depositions and other fees paid to third parties. If the plaintiff is successful in his or her case, the law firm may recover attorney’s fees and costs as part of the judgment; however, if the plaintiff is not successful, there is no such recovery. After considering this matter and reviewing the policies of sister courts in similar matters, the Court has determined that it is appropriate to adopt a method by which law firms on the Pro Bono Panel may obtain reimbursement for such expenses.

II. Eligible Cases

The Court will reimburse out-of-pocket expenses incurred by firms voluntarily repesenting pro se plaintiffs in prisoner civil rights cases and any other cases that the Court may later include under the Pro Bono Panel.

III. Reimbursable Espenses Associated with Pro Bono Panel Representation

  1. Standard to Recover Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    The Court will reimburse covered out-of-pocket expenses to the extent they are reasonable, necessary, and otherwise not recoverable as set forth herein. The appropriateness of reimbursements will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Covered Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    Reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses made to third parties for services include, but are not limited to: service of process, filing fees, expert consultations, witness fees, interpreter services, photographs, and deposition costs not reimbursed pursuant to the State of California’s Transcript Reimbursement Fund (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 8030.2 et. seq.). Depending on the circumstances, fees paid to copy services for the production of documents during discovery may or may not be recoverable.
  3. Non-Covered Out-of-Pocket Expenses
    Internally generated costs are not reimbursable. For example, costs of computer-assisted research, internal photocopying and/or printing of documents, and overhead costs, such as telephone service, are not reimbursable.
  4. Limitations
    1. Advance Approval for Single Expenses Exceeding $500.00
      The maximum reimbursement for any single expense shall be $500.00 unless a larger amount is approved before the expense is incurred. To obtain advance approval of an expense, the pro bono attorney must complete a form titled “Request for Authority to Incur Cost in Excess of $500.00” setting forth the nature of the contemplated expenditure, the reason for the expenditure, the anticipated amount, and such other information as may be relevant for a determination that there is good cause for the expense to be incurred, and present that form for approval to the attorney who approves fees and costs under the Criminal Justice Act (“CJA attorney”).
    2. Case Limitations
      The maximum reimbursement of covered expenses should not exceed $10,000.00 for a case.
    3. Exceptions
      The Attorney Admissions Fund Board has the discretion to make exceptions to this limitation and/or to the requirement of advance approval upon an adequate showing of good cause, and to so advise the CJA attorney of that determination. 

IV. Procedure for Recovering Out-of-Pocket Expenses

During the course of the litigation, or when a motion to recover attorney’s fees and costs is denied at the conclusion of the litigation, a law firm seeking to recover out-of-pocket expenses must complete a form titled “Request for Reimbursement of Out-of-Pocket Expenses,” setting forth the nature, reason and amount of each expenditure for which reimbursement is sought, and present that form to the CJA attorney for approval. The CJA attorney shall have broad discretion in approving or disapproving expenses in accordance with this policy, except as set forth in Part III.D.3 above.

V. Judgment or Settlement Resulting in Recovery of Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Any out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed to the law firm must, if previously reimbursed under this policy, be repaid to the Attorney Admissions Fund upon recovery of a judgment or settlement resulting in a monetary award to plaintiff. This repayment must be made prior to any disbursement to counsel, the plaintiff, or any other person.

VI. Management of Funds

The funds for reimbursement are provided by the Central District’s Attorney Admissions Fund. Orders providing for reimbursement are to be signed by the CJA attorney and forwarded for payment to the Clerk of Court.