D.C. Superior Court Expands Limited-Scope Representation

July 1, 2014

On June 16 the Superior Court of the District of Columbia issued an administrative order allowing temporary, limited-scope representation throughout the court. The court administered the ruling as a response to the growing trend of litigants going to court unrepresented, often with negative consequences.

The administrative order marks an expansion of the ability to use limited-scope representation at the court. Pro bono and paid lawyers may now provide limited-scope representation for eligible, low-income clients in the court’s Civil Division, Domestic Violence Unit, Family Court, Probate Division, and Tax Division. Under the order, limited-scope representation is not permitted in jury trials.

Previously, the court issued several administrative orders allowing limited-scope representation when representing pro bono clients in the Civil Actions Branch Collections Calendar, Landlord and Tenant Branch, Paternity and Child Support Branch, and Small Claims and Conciliation Branch.

The court’s decision was informed, in part, by a report issued in April 2013 by the Limited Scope Working Group, a combined effort of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program and the D.C. Access to Justice Commission. The report developed recommendations to institutionalize the practice of limited-scope representation and recommended that the Superior Court draft a court-wide rule and accompanying forms that broadly permit limited-scope representation by paid and pro bono lawyers.

In recognition of its work, the Limited Scope Working Group was awarded the Frederick B. Abramson Award on June 17 at the 2014 D.C. Bar Celebration of Leadership.