Page 187 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 187

 Section 7: Quality of Representation
The CJA program has been described as both the “gold standard” and the “jewel
in the crown” of public defense systems. It deserves this praise, especially when compared to state systems which, seldom adequately funded, have been starved of resources for years. The judiciary deserves much praise for insisting that representa- tion under the CJA be provided consistent with the best practices of the profession and for safeguarding and enabling the program’s growth. Yet despite these accom- plishments, there is substantial evidence the Criminal Justice Act increasingly fails to fulfill its aim of ensuring all defendants equal justice under the law.
Testimony reflected that federal criminal justice has become a three-tiered system. This stratification exists not from lack of talent or commitment but rather from lack of resources and independence. Resources and independence matter. Without the resources necessary for effective representation (including an attorney’s time) and the independence to act solely in the best interests of the client, an attor- ney cannot hope to provide quality representation.
From the standpoint of resources and independence, Assistant U.S. Attorneys sit on the top tier. They call upon the extraordinary resources of the entire Department of Justice and associated agencies that provide investigative and other support. They have extensive opportunities to attend high-quality training—and are paid their salaries while doing so. They are fully independent, able to pursue sin- gle-mindedly the best interests of their client, the United States.
On the second tier, federal defenders have less resources and sometimes less independence, but they are specialists in federal criminal law who benefit from institutional resources, support, and training—though never at the level of fed- eral prosecutors. In general, assistant federal defenders are free to act solely in the interests of their clients.
At the lowest tier are CJA panel attorneys. They most likely cannot devote
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 143
States unless approved by the Conference itself.
 
























































































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