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The rates include both attorney compensation and office overhead.
The CJA authorized reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses and payment of expert and investigative services necessary for an adequate defense.
While it provided for some compensation for appointed counsel (CJA panel attorneys), it did so at rates substantially below that which they would receive from their privately-retained clients.
These maximums may be exceeded when higher amounts are certified by the district judge, or circuit judge if the representation is at the court of appeals, as necessary to provide fair compensation and the chief judge of the circuit approves.
Federal public defender organizations are federal entities, and their staffs are federal employees.
Before the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), however, there was no authority to compensate appointed counsel for their services or litigation expenses, and federal judges depended on the professional obligation of lawyers to provide pro bono publico representation to defendants unable to retain counsel.
In 1964, the CJA was enacted to establish a comprehensive system for appointing and compensating lawyers to represent defendants financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings.
In those districts with a defender organization, panel attorneys are typically assigned between 30 percent and 40 percent of the CJA cases, generally those where a conflict of interest or some other factor precludes federal defender representation.
Nationwide, federal defenders receive approximately 60 percent of CJA appointments, and the remaining 40 percent are assigned to the CJA panel.
Community defender organizations operate under the supervision of a board of directors and may be a branch or division of a parent non-profit legal services corporation that provides representation to the poor in state, county, and municipal courts.
The Judicial Conference of the United States promulgates policies and guidelines for the administration of the CJA, formulates legislative recommendations to the Congress, and approves funding requests and spending plans for the defender program as a whole and, through its standing Committee on Defender Services, budgets and grants for each defender organization.