Page 147 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 147

 5.3 The Scope and Gravity of Inappropriate Voucher Cutting
A great deal of the written and oral testimony this Committee received concerns judges cutting panel attorney fees. More dissatisfaction was expressed in this area than in any other into which the Committee inquired. In some sense, it is curious that the process of reviewing and paying the bills of attorneys selected by judges to represent the indigent accused should produce so many problems. The standard for payment is simple. Attorneys are to be compensated for time spent in court and time “reasonably expended out of court.” The time spent in court is known and is to be compensated whether reasonable or not. In deciding whether time spent out of court should be compensated, a reviewer should need to ask only three questions: Was the work actually undertaken; was the work undertaken a reasonable means of achieving the client’s aims in the litigation; and was the time spent to accom- plish that work reasonable? These are the questions that the language of the statute implies. In the abstract, answering these questions should not be difficult, particu- larly when attorneys are selected by judges for their professional competence, and presumably their integrity, as well. Therefore voucher cutting—the failure to pay attorney bills in full—should not be a major concern. Yet it is.
In your experience, how widespread is the cutting or denial of vouchers in your district?
                      100% of the judges
75% or less of the judges
50% or less of the judges
25% or less of the judges
The evidence that inappropriate voucher cutting regularly occurs and is wide- spread—if not pervasive—was overwhelming. Witnesses, both judges and attor- neys alike, described it. No one disputed that it occurs. In addition to this testimony, the Committee conducted a nationwide survey of panel attorneys and consulted independent reports to inform its review. Although the majority of panel attorneys surveyed (72%) believe that voucher cutting happens in just one out of four cases or less, given the volume of cases handled by panel attorneys nationwide that’s still an extraordinary number of vouchers being cut.
Two aspects of the Committee’s efforts to obtain information on the scope
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 103
   States unless approved by the Conference itself.
0% 10%
50% 60%
5.41% 8.35%
20% 30% 40%
70% 80% 90% 100%
Source: CJA Review Committee Survey on Vouchers (June 2016), available at

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