Page 164 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
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A circuit judge and former panel attorney told the Committee, “One of the great frustrations lawyers expressed to me when I was the CJA rep is that vouchers were cut with no explanation and no recourse.”522 He suggested that a change in judicial policy would be an improvement. Specifically, he suggested changing the discretionary language of notification, i.e. the attorney “should” be notified of a pro- posed voucher reduction, to mandatory language—the attorney “shall” be notified of such a reduction. His proposed changes would also require that attorneys have the right to respond to the proposed cut.523 Ultimately, he told the Committee, “If there was some transparency in the process and lawyers were told this is why it’s being cut, they had at least a dialogue with the individual cutting the voucher, I think it would be a real improvement...”524
Inability to Appeal and Repercussions
A decision to reduce an attorney’s fees is not appealable. Under the current stat- ute, “If a CJA lawyer wishes to know why his or her voucher has been halved there is not a standard mechanism adhered to by which they can redress that.”525 A CJA panel attorney district representative told the Committee that he had been the substitute for formal process. When a judge had a problem with a voucher, he
got a phone call from the judge. “It was a rather new lawyer to the panel and had been submitting vouchers that were getting some eyebrows . . . . [The judge] called me and asked me to get in touch with the lawyer and discuss his vouchers with him and how they were being viewed. “That’s kind of the closest that we’ve come to a formal process.”526
Without formal procedures, attorneys are often unwilling to challenge a judge’s decision on fees because of the tremendous power judges wield over selection, appointment, and compensation of attorneys. The Committee was told by one fed- eral defender that,
[The] really good CJA lawyers are reluctant in my district to push back against decisions from our courts about their CJA budgets or their CJA vouchers being cut because judges wield an incredible amount of power. Not just in the decisions . . . in terms of litigation, in terms of appointments, but there’s all the indirect power where lawyers just don’t want to be held in the bad graces of the local bench.527
522 JudgeLuisFelipeRestrepo,3rdCir.,PublicHearing—Philadelphia,Pa.,Panel2a,Tr.at10. 523 Id.at6.
524 Id.at10.
525 JudgeKathleenWilliams,S.D.Fla.,PublicHearing—Miami,Fla.,Panel3,Tr.at22.
526 GordonArmstrong,CJAPanelAtty.Dist.Rep.,S.D.Ala,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala.,Panel 7, Tr. at 17.
527 JimWyda,FPD,D.Md.,PublicHearing—Philadelphia,Pa.,Panel10,Tr.at8.
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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