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Employees can’t count on free attorney in most cases

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Sometimes, employees who want to sue their employers don’t have the cash for up-front fees lawyers demand. If the employee has little money, she may ask the court to find free legal representation. But that will work only if she’s already looked hard for an attorney herself—and the EEOC or another agency has concluded her case has merit.

Recent case:
Corazon Pascual claims her employer terminated her for various discriminatory reasons. The EEOC dismissed her case, and she was unable to find an attorney who would take her case without a retainer. She asked the court to appoint counsel.

The court refused, concluding that appointing counsel should be the exception rather than the rule. Since the EEOC had found her proposed suit meritless, the court didn’t think this was one of those exceptional cases. (Pascual v. Astrue, No. 08-02906, ND CA, 2009)

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