Page 155 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 155

 Committee, made them feel they were not being treated as professionals or with the respect they deserved. A federal defender told the Committee that in his district, some of the best criminal defense lawyers he knows have left the panel because of the “hassle,” and “the denigration of the defense function that they feel from that. They just don’t want to deal with it.”474 Another federal defender also confirmed that the best attorneys in her district were leaving the panels as well. She said that because the panel attorneys have “experienced tremendous voucher cuts, some of the very top layer of the panels over the years have dropped off because they just couldn’t tolerate [it]. I’ve had lawyers tell me ‘I can no longer work for free.’”475
Not only are attorneys leaving panels in some districts, the Committee was informed of instances in which experts refused to work with panel attorneys for fear of not being paid. A federal defender whose panel had faced a great deal of voucher cuts told the Committee that she was able to retain experts, but panel attorneys in her district no longer could. “[T]he experts themselves have had their bills cut and so they don’t trust that the panel lawyers will be able to get them paid. Whereas if they work for defender offices, they know they’re always going to get paid.” 476
Voucher cutting also damages efforts to recruit new attorneys to the panel. One CJA panel attorney district representative told the Committee that voucher cutting had harmed his panel’s ability to retain promising younger attorneys to take the place of older, retiring attorneys (for more on the aging panel across all districts, please see Section 11). He was also concerned that young attorneys who did join the panel would quickly tire of the cuts and caps and soon abandon CJA practice.477
5.4 Other Recurring Issues in Voucher Review
5.4.1 Overbilling
The Committee attempted to determine whether overbilling—inflating or pad- ding CJA vouchers—was a substantial problem. Consistent testimony from both judges and attorneys suggests that while some overbilling occurs, the percentage of vouchers involved is very small. A district court judge in California said that the percentage of panel attorneys who overbill is a “very small number,” adding “I don’t want the exception to become the rule or leave you with that impres- sion . . . . I never mean to imply that 99.9 percent didn’t fairly play by the rules.”478
474 NeilFulton,FPD,D.N.D.&D.S.D.,PublicHearing—Minneapolis,Minn.,Panel2,Tr.at27.
475 DeborahWilliams,FPD,S.D.Ohio,PublicHearing—Philadelphia,Pa.,Panel10,Tr.at29.
476 Id.
477 EdwardHunt,CJAPanelAtty.,E.D.Wis.,PublicHearing—Minneapolis,Minn.,Panel4,Tr.at25. 478 JudgeDavidCarter,C.D.Cal.,PublicHearing—SanFrancisco,Cal.,Panel5,Tr.at37.
No recommendation presented herein represents
the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United 2 0 1 7 R E P O R T O F T H E A D H O C C O M M I T T E E T O R E V I E W T H E C R I M I N A L J U S T I C E A C T 111
 States unless approved by the Conference itself.
 





















































































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