Page 188 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 188

 FINDINGS
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R E P O R T
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themselves exclusively to federal criminal practice. As solo practitioners or members of small firms, they have little or no institutional support. They receive inadequate compensation which they must forgo to attend training. They depend upon the judicial officer presiding over an individual case for any resources and even for their own pay. While pursuing the best interests of their clients, panel attorneys must keep one eye on the judge who holds the purse strings.
This system is segmented further by local variation. Some districts have estab- lished local plans that safeguard the independence of panel lawyers by diminish- ing or doing away with the role of the presiding judge in approving attorneys’ fees and the use of ancillary service providers. Some of these same districts administer their plan by CJA committees that manage selection to the panel, insulating the lawyers further from the judges before whom they appear. These committees can provide panel lawyers with meaningful access to decision-makers and due process in voucher disputes. In these districts, panel attorneys, less constrained by lack of resources and impediments to independence, function more like individual assis- tant federal defenders, diminishing the quality gap.
In other districts, judges maintain control over the selection, appointment, and compensation of attorneys as well as authorization to use ancillary service providers. Some districts impose informal, artificial limits on the work panel law- yers can do on behalf of their clients. Sometimes this is in the form of limits on fees set well below statutory case maximums.657 Other times it is the discouragement, if not outright bar, of payment for certain facets of a representation (see Section 5). In such districts, both the independence and the effectiveness of panel lawyers can be severely compromised.
7.1 Quality of Representation by Panel Attorneys
Quality of representation by panel attorneys received both harsh criticism and high praise. A private defense attorney, a former chair of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section and liaison to the Sentencing Commission, told the Committee that from his perspective, panel attorneys “generally . . . are state court practitioners who make a living on a high volume of cases. They’re willing to take the federal court appointments because they’ll pay more . . . . They don’t have enough experi- ence day in and day out with the federal sentencing guidelines to do an effective job” representing clients.658
Stephen Bright, President of the Southern Center for Human Rights, told
657 LeRoyPercy,CJADist.Rep.,N.D.Miss.,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala.,Panel7,Writ.Test.,at1. 658 JamesFelman,FormerCJAPanelAtty.,M.D.Fla.,PublicHearing—Miami,Fla.,Panel4,Tr.,at34.
No recommendation presented herein represents 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 the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States unless approved by the Conference itself.























































































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