Page 124 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
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having just a better well-rounded group of people to pick from.”321 Geography can complicate this calculus, as one panel attorney testified: “One area where we do experience some difficulties and I know the court has experienced some difficulties is the availability of sufficient numbers of qualified counsel in some of the more remote divisions.”322
According to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice entitled, “Good Practices for Federal Panel Attorney Programs,” to stay abreast of new developments in substantive, sentencing, and procedural areas of practice, panel attorneys need at least four appointments per year.323 Most panel attorneys who testified before this Committee agreed that the number of cases need to maintain proficiency is higher than the Vera report recommendation.324 One explained why giving panel attorneys a sufficient number of cases is so important:
I just finished a case a couple of months ago....There were issues of statutory interpretation as to the applicability of a mandatory minimum. There were guideline issues. There were variance issues....The district court ultimately agreed with me....What I find most troubling is that in my research I found a case from this district, from a year or two ago, in which the exact same issue had been raised, and CJA counsel did not raise it. As a result, the defendant in that case ended up with [a signifi- cantly longer] sentence because there was no argument about the appli- cability of the mandatory minimum in those circumstances.325
This attorney stressed to the Committee, “These cases are not cases for dab- blers or neophytes. The stakes are simply too high.”326
Training as a requirement for Panel Membership
There was also general agreement that panel membership should include a training requirement.327 Training of panel lawyers has a demonstrable positive effect. One
321 ChiefJudgeChristinaArmijo,D.N.M.,PublicHearing—SantaFe,N.M.,Panel1,Tr.,at32. 322 RichardDurbin,U.S.Attorney,W.D.Tex.,PublicHearing—SantaFe,N.M.,Panel6,Tr.,at4.
323 JonWooletal.,ImprovingPublicDefenseSystems:GoodPracticesforFederalPanelAttorneys Programs, Vera Inst. Of Just. 7 (June 2003), available at https://www/ practices-for-federal-panel-attorney-programs-a-preliminary-study-of-plans-and-practices (last viewed 9/25/2017).
324 TheCommitteewasmostoftentoldaminimumforproficiencywas5or6appointments.SeePete Schweda, CJA Dist. Rep., E.D. Wash., Public Hearing—Portland, Or., Panel 5, Tr., at 17; Jennifer Horwitz, CJA Dist. Rep., W.D. Wash., Public Hearing—Portland, Or., Panel 5, Tr., at 18–19 (“I think the sweet spot is a minimum of 5 to 6 cases a year to stay proficient in federal practice.”); Tom Coan, CJA Dist. Rep., D. Or., Public Hearing—Portland, Or., Panel 5, Tr., at 18. One panel attorney recommended 7–10 cases per panel attorney, per year. Jim Ayers, CJA Panel Atty., E.D.N.C., Public Hearing—Miami, Fla., Panel 5, Tr., at 1.
325 RobertRichman,BoardMember,Minn.Assoc.ofCriminalDefenseLawyers,Public Hearing—Minneapolis, Minn., Panel 4, Tr., at 3–4.
326 Id.at4.
327 Formoreontraining,pleaseseeSection7.
No recommendation presented herein represents 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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