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FULTZ v. NEIGHBORHOOD LEGAL SERVS.

January 26, 1987

Mrs. Ernestine A. Fultz, Pro Se, Plaintiff,
v.
Neighborhood Legal Services, Albert Jones, Asst. Director Mrs. Barbara Smith, Defendants


Cohill, C.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's pro se complaint which seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages for alleged violations of the civil rights of the plaintiff, Mrs. Ernestine A. Fultz. Because matters outside the pleadings have been presented to the Court and considered by it, we will construe defendants' motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), 56; Sayers v. Automated Transportation, Inc., 645 F. Supp. 194, 196 (W.D. Pa. 1986). We conclude that plaintiff has been given a reasonable opportunity to produce evidentiary materials and note that the discovery period has closed in the above-captioned case; thus, plaintiff will not be prejudiced by having the instant motion decided as one for summary judgment. *fn1"

 Facts

 In June of 1985, plaintiff requested NLSA to provide her with free legal services relative to an incident involving Pittsburgh Police Officers. While Mrs. Fultz has not specified the particular type of legal services she wanted, it appears that she sought assistance in a tort and/or criminal action against the Pittsburgh Police. *fn2" See Affidavit of Albert J. Jones. Mrs. Fultz went to NLSA's North Side office and was interviewed by Barbara Smith, a paralegal employed by NLSA. After discussing the nature of plaintiff's legal problems, Ms. Smith believed that plaintiff's problem was primarily criminal in nature and therefore not the type of case which NLSA's Board had authorized her office to handle. See Affidavit of Barbara Smith.

 NLSA has a policy, set by its Board of Directors, that its lawyers and paralegals will not provide services in criminal cases, or in plaintiff-tort cases where a privately retained lawyer could obtain a contingent fee from any recovery. We note that plaintiff concedes that her claim was fee-generating in a document filed with this Court on April 4, 1986. See Plaintiff's Motion In Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, para. K.

 Approximately 49.8% of NLSA's funds were obtained from Legal Services Corporation (hereinafter referred to as "LSC"), and 47.6% of its funds were state/federal funds obtained by entering into a contract with Pennsylvania Legal Services Corporation (hereinafter "PLSC"). Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss at 3-4. NLSA may not use any funds supplied by LSC and PLSC to handle those legal matters enumerated in 42 U.S.C. § 2996f, which is discussed infra. Despite being free to seek other funds to handle cases which it cannot handle with LSC funds, NLSA has elected not to handle every type of case, and also to designate certain cases as "priority cases." NLSA lacks sufficient resources to handle all legal matters brought to its attention; thus, it must limit its services.

 After determining that NLSA could not handle plaintiff's case, Ms. Smith advised Mrs. Fultz to contact the office of William Buchko, Esquire, who coordinates referrals from NLSA to a pro bono lawyer's panel in situations where NLSA cannot provide legal assistance. See Affidavit of Barbara Smith. As a result of plaintiff's dissatisfaction with Ms. Smith's explanation of the types of cases NLSA is authorized to handle and the difficulty plaintiff encountered in attempting to contact the pro bono lawyers panel, Mrs. Fultz requested Assistant Director Albert Jones to conduct a review of NLSA's action in her case.

 
Dear Mrs. Flutz (sic):
 
I have received a response from the Northside office concerning your complaint. I was informed that the legal matter that you came to see Neighborhood Legal Services about was criminal in nature. Neighborhood Legal Services does not handle any criminal complaints. In both of your letters to me you failed to mention what the legal problem was. If you would like to tell me now, I will explain to you whether or not you were properly advised by the Northside office. I was further advised that you were referred to the pro bono lawyer panel. Apparently, according to your letter, you had trouble getting through to the pro bono lawyers and came back to Neighborhood Legal Services even though you had been told that we could not represent you.
 
If you claim that you were not told that we do not handle criminal matters or if you feel that your problem was not a criminal matter, please contact me so we can discuss this matter further.
 
Very trul (sic) yours,
 
S/ ALBERT J. JONES
 
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

 In response to the above letter, plaintiff sent Mr. Jones a lengthy letter dated December 22, 1985, wherein she bitterly complained about defendants' conduct in refusing her ...


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