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The American Bar Association's (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.2 requires lawyers to accept appointments by a tribunal unless the representation would compromise the attorney's ethical responsibilities or the attorney-client relationship. ABA Model Rule 6.1 also recognizes the deeply rooted requirement that lawyers provide pro bono service to underserved populations, encouraging encouraging attorneys to dedicate at least 50 hours of pro bono service annually. Relatedly, the commentary to the appointment rules note that a lawyer may be subject to appointment by a court to serve unpopular clients or persons unable to afford legal services.

But, in most jurisdictions, judges are reluctant to appoint counsel in civil cases under the rationale that doing so may violate the ABA's Model Code of Judicial Conduct. In this article, I examine this rationale and propose a rule change that would permit judges to take a more active role in creating pro bono appointment systems for indigent civil litigants. [excerpt]