Page 156 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
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Another judge wrote to the Committee that in her district, “the vast majority of panel members seek reasonable reimbursement for their services.”479 A case-bud- geting attorney told the Committee that while “every attorney on the CJA panel
in the circuit is not a saint,” of the vouchers that went to the circuit “probably less than one percent are reduced.”480 And sometimes, witnesses stated, overbilling occurs inadvertently, often by newer attorneys on the panel who lack experience submitting vouchers. 481
Overbilling by even a small number of panel attorneys has the potential to tarnish the reputation of the program and affect all attorneys in a district. Any multimillion-dollar government program requires financial oversight, but without experience or training in the defense function, and without data that could be ana- lyzed for patterns of financial abuse, it is exceedingly difficult for judges to identify overbilling. The current system of review by individual judges disperses accountabil- ity and fails to provide sufficient oversight. Centralizing the process of voucher review and approval would make it much easier to identify unjustified billing patterns.
Consistent with the FJC study’s findings on the value of CJA supervisory attorneys, witnesses also stated that individuals with defense experience are better suited than judges to spot problematic billing practices. A panel attorney told the Committee he would be more accurate and strict when necessary in reviewing vouchers than the judges in his district because he has the experience and knowl- edge about how to run a defense.
I’ll give you an example. A colleague came up to me so excited that a judge approved an investigator to go to South America to get some doc- uments. I said, “I can’t believe you got approval for that. It’s such a waste of money. You could have gotten an investigator in that country to go over to get the document, to get it notarized, and send it back to you.” I would never have authorized that.482
Similarly, one federal defender testified that her office would have a better per- spective on voucher review than judges because, “we know from our own experi- ence what are and are not reasonable expenses.”483
Because taxpayer money is being spent, individuals with sufficient knowledge of defense practice should be the ones tasked with reviewing attorney expenditures. And those individuals charged with review should themselves be subject to over- sight. Neither district nor circuit judges have the experience, training, or time neces- sary to perform this monitoring function.
479 JudgeCathyBissoon,W.D.Pa.,PublicHearing—Philadelphia,Pa.,Panel2a,Writ.Test.at3.
480 BobRanz,CaseBudgetingAttorney,6thCir.,PublicHearing—SanFrancisco,Cal.,Panel1,Tr.at12. 481 Mag.JudgeCliffordShirley,E.D.Tenn.,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala.,Panel5,Tr.at9.
482 BobbiSternheim,CJAPanelAtty.,S.D.N.Y.,PublicHearing—Philadelphia,Pa.,Panel9,Tr.at25. 483 LisaFreeland,FPD,W.D.Pa.,PublicHearing—SantaFe,NM,Panel3,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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