Pro Bono Appointment in Federal Court: Tips from the Trenches, Part 1 – B08

Litigation and Advocacy Track
Federal Practice Section 

Session B: 10:50 a.m. – 11:50 p.m.

About the Program
A significant proportion of cases in our federal court involve self-represented parties, many of whom are incarcerated. To ensure that such litigants receive appropriate representation, the court has recently amended Local Rule 83.10 to encourage more lawyers to accept pro bono appointments. In this program, a panel of federal judges and practitioners will review the local rule, discuss reasons why you should volunteer to accept a pro bono appointment in Connecticut’s US District Court, and offer practical advice for handling these cases.

You Will Learn

  • What substantive law applies to claims by prisoners, and where to find more training and education on the law
  • Procedural tips and tricks applicable to prisoner cases, including how to arrange to visit your incarcerated client and how to make sure your client appears for court proceedings
  • Approaches to settlement in prisoner cases


Jonathan B. Orleans, Pullman & Comley LLC, Bridgeport

Attorney Orleans chairs Pullman & Comley’s Labor & Employment Law practice and co-chairs the Higher Education practice.  He has over 30 years of experience as a litigator and counselor in the full range of employment-related matters.  Jon also advises colleges, universities and independent schools concerning employment-related matters, Title IX compliance as it relates to both sexual misconduct and athletics, and other student conduct issues. He is frequently engaged to investigate campus and workplace discrimination and sexual harassment complaints.

Jon is currently the co-chair of the CBA’s Federal Practice Section, chair of the Local Civil Rules Advisory Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, and Legal Advisor to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. Previously, Jon has been a member of the Connecticut Judicial Department Civil Commission, the Federal Grievance Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, and the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. He is a Life Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation.  In 2011-12, Jon taught Civil Procedure as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Kristen L. Zaehringer, Murtha Cullina LLP, Stamford

Attorney Zaehringer is a member of Murtha Cullina’s Litigation practice group, where she represents clients in the areas of commercial litigation, professional malpractice, and employment law. Kristen’s litigation experience includes representing individual and corporate clients in cases involving claims of breach of contract, consumer fraud, unfair trade practices, violation of federal and state credit reporting laws, violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, professional negligence, business torts, employment discrimination, wrongful termination, violation of wage and hour law, and violation of non-competition and confidentiality agreements. Kristen regularly represents clients in state and federal court and before various administrative agencies including: the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the United States Department of Labor, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, and the Connecticut Department of Labor. Kristen also drafts and provides advice on employment contracts, restrictive covenants, severance agreements, and the implementation of employment manuals, policies and procedures.

Kristen is currently a member of the CBA’s Federal Practice Section, the Federal Grievance Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, and the Local Civil Rules Advisory Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.  She is also a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.  In 2015, she was named one of the “New Leaders in the Law” by the Connecticut Law Tribune and in 2016 she was among 13 recipients of the District of Connecticut’s Pro Bono Award.


Hon. Donna F. Martinez, United States Magistrate Judge, District of Connecticut, Hartford

Judge Martinez was appointed United States Magistrate Judge on February 8, 1994. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 1973, a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in 1975, and a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1978.

After graduating from law school, Judge Martinez worked as an Assistant Corporation Counsel at City Hall in Hartford.  In 1980, she joined the Office of the United States Attorney in the District of Connecticut.  An Assistant United States Attorney for almost fifteen years, she represented the government in all types of civil and criminal litigation.  When she left in 1994, Judge Martinez was serving as the United States Attorney’s Chief of the Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force.

She has taught at the U.S. Department of Justice Advocacy Institute and at Yale Law School.  She is a longtime member of the Oliver Ellsworth Chapter of the American Inns of Court and has served two terms as president.

Hon. Michael P. Shea, United States District Judge, District of Connecticut, Hartford

Judge Shea was sworn in as a United States District Judge on December 31, 2012.  He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 7, 1967.  Judge Shea graduated from Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989.  He graduated from Yale Law School, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal, in 1993.

After graduating from law school, Judge Shea clerked for Judge James L. Buckley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Thereafter, he joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as an associate, resident first in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and then in its Brussels, Belgium office.  His practice at Cleary Gottlieb focused on U.S. and European antitrust matters.

In 1998, Judge Shea returned to Hartford, Connecticut, and joined Day, Berry & Howard LLP, now known as Day Pitney LLP, as an associate.   He became a partner of the firm in 2003.  At Day Pitney, Judge Shea focused on commercial litigation, mass torts, First Amendment matters, and white collar criminal defense.  He also chaired the firm’s appellate practice group.  Throughout his career in private practice, Judge Shea maintained an active pro bono practice, receiving awards from both the Hartford County and Connecticut Bar Associations for his work on behalf of indigent persons in criminal and civil cases.

Sean M. Fisher, Brenner Saltzman & Wallman LLP, New Haven

Attorney Fisher is a member of the firm’s Litigation practice group, where he represents clients in business and commercial disputes before federal courts, Connecticut state courts, state and federal agencies, and arbitration panels. He has regularly represented clients in breach of contract matters and matters concerning breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, trademark infringement, and other business torts. Sean also has substantial experience in the area of employment law and has represented clients bringing and defending claims involving federal and state discrimination laws, restrictive covenants, and theft of trade secrets.

Sean also counsels and represents clients in real property litigation, including landlord-tenant disputes, evictions, foreclosures, and adverse possession actions. Sean has experience with legal issues involving government entities, such as civil rights actions, municipal tort claims and tax appeals.


Antonio Ponvert III, Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder PC, Bridgeport

Attorney Ponvert represents child and adult victims of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, deprivation of Constitutional rights, sexual abuse, police misconduct, and other abuses of power.

Since joining the Bridgeport, Connecticut law firm of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in 1999, Antonio has achieved record-breaking verdicts and settlements for his clients, including the second largest verdict in Connecticut history ($41.75 Million) on behalf of a young woman who contracted Tick-Borne Encephalitis on an overseas school trip, a $20 Million verdict against a rabbi for child sexual abuse, the one and only wrongful death settlement with the manufacturer of Skoal smokeless tobacco on behalf of the surviving wife and children of a man who died from tongue cancer, and substantial monetary compensation and injunctive relief on behalf of female correctional officers who were victims of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Connecticut Department of Correction.


1.0 CLE Credit (CT: 1.0 General; NY: 1.0 Skills)