Page 96 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
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cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).191 If the statutorily authorized COLAs provided to federal employees had been provided to the panel attorney rate on a recurring, annual basis since 1986, the authorized non-capital hourly rate for fiscal year 2017 would be $145,192 and for 2018 would be $148.193
Although the current maximum panel attorney hourly rate in non-capital felony cases is $148,194 panel attorneys are only being paid $132 per hour to rep- resent CJA clients. For the past four years, the Defender Services Committee has requested the panel attorney rate to be raised to the full statutorily authorized amount for non-capital cases; however, as explained below, the Budget Committee has requested only lesser increases.
3.5.1 Budget Process to Determine Panel Attorney Rates
When formulating a budget request for the Defender Services program, the Defender Services Committee makes recommendations regarding possible increases to the CJA panel attorney hourly rates. The Budget Committee, subject to Judicial Conference approval, then determines what panel attorney rate to request from Congress. The Chair of the Budget Committee explained that whether to seek panel attorney rate increases is a political determination, based on whether she believes a rate increase is likely to be approved. The Budget Committee and its staff weigh a number of factors in determining whether an increase request is appro- priate, including considering the budget needs of all other judiciary programs and offices. In recent years, the Defender Services Committee has requested that the Judicial Conference seek funding for the full statutorily authorized rate in FY 2016, FY 2017, FY 2018, and FY 2019.195 The Budget Committee has advanced alter-
nate requests for less than the statutorily authorized maximum, and the Executive Committee has rarely placed a panel rate increase proposal on the JCUS discus- sion calendar. When asked why panel rate increases had not been requested or at least discussed more often by JCUS, the Chair of the Budget Committee explained: “Just because a committee requests something doesn’t mean that a member of the Judicial Conference deems it relevant to talk about.”196
Some panel attorneys who testified felt that the judiciary was prioritizing court budgets over appointed CJA counsel. Regarding the judges’ decision not to ask
191 18USC3006A(d)(1);7AGuidetoJudicialPolicy§230.20.
192 Thisrateisapproximateandchangesdependingoneconomicvariables.
193 FY18HouseAppropriationstestimonyJudgeGibbonswrittenstatementpg.8–9.
194 Thediscussioninthissectionwillreferonlytothenon-capitalpanelattorneyhourlyrate.In2005, Congress increased the capital hourly rate to $160. See Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2005 (Pub. L. No. 108-447). Since that time, the capital rate has received all applicable COLAs; therefore, the CJA panel attorney capital rate, currently at $185 per hour, has reached the statutorily authorized rate.
195 SeechartinExecutiveSummaryatxviii.
196 FromnotestakencontemporaneouslyinameetingbetweentheCommittee,JudgeGibbons,and members of BAPO on September 29, 2015.
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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