There have been three comprehensive reviews concerning the provision of legal representation and other defense services to criminal defendants in the federal courts.
The first comprehensive review began in 1961—before the CJA was passed—when then–Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy appointed a special committee to study the federal criminal justice system and identify problems faced by persons of limited means. The committee, chaired by Professor Francis A. Allen of the University of Michigan Law School, issued its report in 1963.
Congress adopted many of the recommendations from the Allen Committee Report when it enacted the CJA in 1964, but deferred adoption of other proposals, including the creation of federal defender organizations, pending further study.
The second comprehensive review took place shortly after the CJA was enacted. In May 1967, the Judicial Conference and the Department of Justice commissioned Professor Dallin H. Oaks of the University of Chicago Law School to evaluate the initiatives implemented by the Act and to study the need for federal defender organizations. The report was submitted to Congress in 1968.
Based on the Oaks Report, Congress amended the CJA in 1970 to authorize, among other things, the creation of federal defender organizations.
The third (and most recent) comprehensive review began in 1991, pursuant to the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-650, 104 Stat. 5089. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist appointed the committee to conduct this review and selected Judge Edward C. Prado as Chair. The Prado Committee’s report, issued in 1993, included several recommendations, including recommendations to enhance the independence of defense services in the federal criminal system.
In March 1993, the Judicial Conference adopted almost all of the Prado Committee’s recommendations, but rejected the Committee’s recommendation to create within the Judicial Branch an independent Center for Federal Criminal Defense Services.