United States District Court - Northern District Court of California

Phyllis J. Hamilton, Chief Judge

Susan Y. Soong, Clerk of Court

CJA Policy Manual

Table of Contents

    1. Appointment of Counsel and Issuance of Initial Voucher
    2. Cross-Reference of Vouchers
    3. Attorney Compensation and Recordkeeping
    4. Recycling
    5. Maximum Amounts
    6. CJA 20: Non-Capital Cases
      1. Time Limits
      2. Standard Cases
      3. Complex or Extended Cases/Interim Payments
      4. Multi -Defendant Cases
    7. CJA 30: Capital Cases
    8. Voucher Preparation
    9. Voucher Review
    10. Approval and Payment
    11. Supplemental Claims
    12. Appeal of Voucher Reduction
    13. Routing
    14. Confidentiality of CJA Documents
    15. No Sealing Requests for CJA Vouchers or Funding Requests
    16. Status of Vouchers
    17. 1099 Reporting
    1. Supporting Documentation
    2. Associates in the Same Firm
    3. Assistant Counsel (Independent of a Firm)
    4. Paralegals
    5. Computerized Legal Research
    6. Photocopying
    7. Fax and Phone
    8. Postage
    9. Messengers/Couriers/Express Delivery Services
    10. Fact Witnesses
    11. State Court/Other Ancillary Matters
    1. Funding Requests for Services Exceeding $800.00
    2. Specificity in Funding Request
    3. No Payments in Excess of Amount Authorized
    4. Order Final Upon District Court's Approval
    5. Submission and Routing of Funding Requests
    6. Service on Opposing Counsel/Confidentiality of CJA Funding Requests
    7. Expert Vouchers
      1. CJA 21
      2. CJA 31
    8. Expert Presumptive Rates
    9. Investigators
    10. Interpreters
    11. Psychiatrists, Psychologists
    12. Depositions
    13. Transcripts of Proceedings in District Judge Cases
    14. Transcript Rates
    15. Multi-Defendant Cases
    16. Procedure for Requesting a Transcript
    17. Transcripts for Appeals
    18. Instructions for Completing the Transcript Designation and Ordering Form for Cases on Appeal
    19. Order CD and/or Transcript of Proceedings in Magistrate Judge Cases
    1. Travel Time
    2. How to Claim Expenses
    3. Mileage, Tolls and Parking
    4. Airplane and Overnight Travel
    5. Meals and Lodging/Per Diem Rates
    6. The Traveler's Responsibilities
      1. Phased Budgeting
      2. Budget Submissions
      3. Support Staff/Experts
      4. Division of Labor


These instructions have been prepared to inform CJA panel attorneys of the Court’s procedures and provide an understanding of the voucher review process. This manual includes all procedures mandated by the Court's Northern District of California’s CJA Plan as revised through February 2012. Answers to questions concerning appointment under the Criminal Justice Act can generally be found in:

  1. 18 U.S.C. §3006A;
  2. This Court's Criminal Justice Act Plan, General Order 2 and General Order 50;
  3. This Criminal Justice Act Policy Manual;
  4. The Court’s website, cand.uscourts.gov/cja; and
  5. The National Criminal Justice Act Guidelines (uscourts.gov...).

For questions not answered by these references, counsel should contact the CJA Unit.

Appointment of Counsel and Issuance of Initial Voucher

The Federal Public Defender’s Office (FPDO) handles the appointment of counsel in CJA cases. Once counsel is appointed by the court, the representation will be set up in eVoucher and counsel can start to enter their time. 

If the case will involve interim payments or exceed the statutory maximum, the attorney should make a written request for authorization to submit interim vouchers on the CJA 26 Form. The CJA 26 Form is created in eVoucher. 

Cross-Reference of Vouchers

Time spent on multiple cases that require overlapping services (e.g., research, attendance at court, travel to visit clients, etc.) should be appropriately allocated among the cases and not charged in full to each case. The attorney should annotate in the eVoucher description the case names and numbers between which compensation for the time in question should be divided. 

Attorney Compensation and Recordkeeping

See CJA Compensation for attorney rates pursuant to CJA appointment.

Attorneys must report work performed in tenths of an hour. A billing increment chart is provided for your convenience. 

The court expects appointed counsel to use the least expensive reasonable method to provide high quality legal and other services to indigent defendants. Appointed counsel will not be compensated for work that they perform that could or should be performed by other less expensive authorized staff (e.g., paraprofessionals, clerks, etc.). Whenever appropriate, without compromising the quality of the work, services should be performed by the least expensive, qualified staff member authorized by the court. For example, lawyers will not be compensated for court filings, service of papers, file organization, photocopying, mailing, faxing, etc. Attorneys will not be compensated for secretarial tasks. If an appointed attorney conferences with an associate on an appointed case, only the appointed attorney will be compensated for time. If two attorneys are appointed, conferencing will be approved for limited and reasonable expenditures of time.

Attorneys must maintain contemporaneous time and attendance records for all work performed, including work performed by associates, partners and support staff, as well as expense records. Such records, which may be subject to audit, must be retained for three years after approval of the final voucher for an appointment.

Each voucher entry shall reflect discrete individual tasks and shall not simply list multiple tasks performed in a specified block of time. Information should be provided in sufficient detail as to permit meaningful review, without violation of the canons of ethics or disclosure of attorney work product including, but not limited to:

  1. Specification by identifying information of witnesses interviewed.  If counsel feels it is inappropriate to provide the name of a witness, identification by type of witness (e.g. “guilt phase witness #1”) is sufficient. The court requires sufficient information to distinguish between individuals interviewed.
  2. Identification of persons involved in telephone conversations or conferences and topics discussed (A simple description of the general topic of discussion, not specific details, is requested.)
  3. Specific topics researched.
  4. Identification of documents reviewed or prepared, including transcripts and pleadings drafted or reviewed, by title and page numbers and, if necessary for an understanding of the task, explanation of its relevance to the federal proceedings.

Aggregate time blocks or entries which are vague or ambiguous will not be approved for payment. If the level of detail is insufficient for auditing purposes, the vouchers will be returned to counsel for re-submission with adequate detail.

When entering time on the "Services" tab in eVoucher, under the category  “Obtaining & Reviewing Records”, the number of pages reviewed should be placed in the box designated in this category.  Counsel should also specify the types of documents being reviewed and bates numbers, if appropriate. It is expected that the attorney will review discovery and other documents at a rate of 50 pages or more per hour.

Recycling of Prior Documents/Value Billing

Attorneys may claim only for work that is originally prepared for the case in which the voucher is submitted. By submitting a voucher, the attorney certifies that the services claimed are for original work prepared in the current case and does not claim hours for previously-prepared “recycled” documents from this case or other cases.

Maximum Amounts

The schedule of the case compensation maximums under the Criminal Justice Act. 18 U.S.C. Section 3006A(d)(3) provides that compensation exceeding the maximum amounts may be authorized in cases where there is complex or extended representation if the Court’s delegate, the CJA Supervising Attorney, certifies that the amount of the excess payment is necessary to provide fair compensation and the payment is approved by the Chief Judge of the Circuit or his/her delegate. Counsel should create, complete, and submit a CJA 26 through eVoucher for each case that exceeds the statutory maximum  and/or requesting interim payments. Upon notice of approval of the CJA 26, counsel may submit the voucher for compensation. Failure to provide adequate information supporting excess fees may result in the denial  of the request. 

CJA 20: Non-Capital Cases

Time Limits:

Volume VII Chapter II, Part C Section 2.21 of the Guide to Judiciary Policy states that vouchers shall be submitted no later than 45 days after the final disposition of the case, unless good cause is shown. The policy requires the CJA Unit to ensure that attorneys are complying with the prescribed limits and to make every effort to have the attorneys submit the claim as soon as possible upon completion of services rendered. Good cause shall be documented in a statement from counsel that can be uploaded to the "Document" tab in eVoucher. 

Standard Cases:

For cases that are not complex or extended, the CJA 20 voucher shall be submitted no later than 45 days after the final disposition of the case, unless good cause is shown.

Complex or Extended Cases/Requests for Interim Payments:

For cases that have been declared complex by the Court or when the appointed attorney believes the case is complex or will be extended, the appointed attorney may make a written request for authorization to submit interim vouchers rather than waiting to bill at the end of the case. The authorization applies to all appointed attorneys and experts in the case. To make the request, the appointed attorney needs to submit a CJA 26 through eVoucher that specifically states that the case has been declared complex by the Court or “due to the complexity or length of the anticipated proceedings, the case is extended or complex, and payment in excess of the statutory maximum is necessary to assure fair compensation.” The request should set forth the specific reasons why the case is complex and/or is anticipated to be extended. 

The authorization is approved by the CJA Supervising Attorney, after consultation with the judge assigned to the case when necessary, and by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit or his or her representative.

For those cases that have been declared complex by the Court or when the attorney believes that the case is complex or will be extended and that it will exceed the statutory maxim,um, counsel shall create and submit a CJA26 through eVoucher.  Counsel shall request the total amount of funds anticipated to complete the case (statutory maximum + additional amount requested = total amount requested). Once authorization is approved, counsel can submit vouchers up to the approved amount.   This district no longer withholds funds from the interim payments exceeding the statutory maximum. However, all vouchers exceeding the statutory maximums must be approved by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Multi-Defendant Cases

In all multi-defendant cases involving more than one CJA appointed attorney, counsel should make all reasonable efforts to coordinate to reduce costs, including joint applications for funding of investigators and other services. The court encourages designation of a coordinating attorney for this purpose. The CJA Supervising Attorney should be contacted for assistance in coordination of multi-defendant cases. If the CJA coordinating attorney will no longer be participating in the case because the case against his or her client has been resolved, the coordinating attorney should notify the CJA supervising attorney by email, explaining the need for a replacement to monitor funding authorizations and to ensure other matters are addressed in a coordinated fashion as the case continues.

CJA 30: Capital Cases

Counsel shall submit a case budget in all Capital Cases.   Interim payments shall be approved in all Capital Cases.   Counsel should contact the CJA Supervising Attorney to discuss case budgeting. 

All  CJA 30 or 31 vouchers shall be submitted through eVoucher..

Voucher Preparation

Voucher processing requires the review and analysis of vouchers submitted by CJA panel attorneys to determine that the services rendered and expenses incurred are in accordance with the policies, requirements, practices and procedures of the judiciary. Vouchers are processed, reviewed, and audited in the Clerk’s Office CJA Unit and reviewed by the CJA Supervising Attorney in consultation with the presiding judge. A voucher checklist to help attorneys prepare accurate vouchers is provided.

Voucher review by the CJA Supervising Attorney or judge includes an assessment of whether or not the fees and expenses are reasonable for the activity or task involved.

As previously stated, if no interim payment order has been requested and/or the claim exceeds the statutory maximum, a CJA 26 must first be submitted through eVoucher and approved before the voucher for compensation (CJA 20) can be submitted. eVoucher will not allow the attorney to submit a voucher that exceeds the authorized amount. 

Voucher Review

The court has delegated review of vouchers to the CJA Supervising Attorney in the following circumstances:

  • All vouchers for attorneys in criminal cases;
  • All vouchers for service providers requesting payments under $800.00 or that are within funding limits preauthorized by a district court or magistrate judge in felony, misdemeanor, and other cases;
  • All vouchers in capital habeas cases in which the expenditure has been authorized in a budget approved by a district court judge;
  • All vouchers for interpreters and transcription services where the payment requested is under $800.00, or the expenditure has been authorized by a judge.

The CJA Supervising Attorney will review vouchers for reasonableness in consultation with the judge presiding in the case and will consult with the judge where a reduction of more than $450.00 is proposed. If a reduction is contemplated, the CJA Supervising Attorney or a CJA Unit Team member will send a written notice via email of the proposed reduction to the panel attorney; the panel attorney will be afforded 14 days to accept the proposed reduction or respond in writing, outlining any reasons why the reduction is not appropriate. A final decision will be provided in writing. A notice will not be sent if the reduction is based upon simple computational errors or failure to comply with requirements outlined in the CJA Manual. The claimant may contact the CJA Unit to request a copy of any modified voucher or to inquire as to the reasons for any reduction.  

The CJA Administrative Committee has established a CJA Fee Review Committee (FRC) to assist the court in assuring compliance with mandated billing guidelines and accurate record keeping; to assess the reasonableness of vouchers and/or individual time entries; and to provide due process and ensure fairness on the voucher review process. View more about the FRC process.

Approval and Payment

If the payment is certified in excess of the statutory maximum, the voucher is sent to the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit  or his/her delegate for review and final approval.

After final approval, the voucher is returned to the Clerk's Office for processing for payment. Payment will be mailed from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C. within one to two weeks.

Supplemental Claims

If counsel needs to submit a supplemental claim for services rendered after the case is completed, counsel may do so by completing an additional voucher which should be designated as a “Supplemental to Final” voucher.

Appeal of Voucher Reduction

The CJA Administration Committee has established a Fee Review Committee (FRC) composed of highly-experienced CJA panel attorneys. The Court may initiate FRC review of vouchers submitted or, if an attorney disputes the court’s reduction of a voucher in excess of $450.00, the panel member may submit a written request to the CJA Supervising Attorney for review by the FRC. The Court will give significant weight to the FRC’s recommendation in making a final determination, and it is anticipated that the recommendation will be presumptively adopted by the court; in an exceptional case, the court may modify the recommendation. Whether or not the initial recommendation of the Fee Review Committee is adopted by the Court, the Court’s decision is final.

In order to receive appointments in the Northern District, all panel attorneys must execute the Addendum to Application for Membership on CJA Panel that is included in the CJA Panel Application.


All funding requests, proposed orders, and other supporting documents should be submitted via email to cja@cand.uscourts.gov. This enables the CJA Unit to track the progress of submissions and ensure timely authorization of funding requests. All approved orders will be served on the attorney by the CJA Unit.

Confidentiality of CJA Documents/ No Sealing Requests for CJA Vouchers or Funding Requests

All CJA documents shall be filed in the confidential CJA files maintained by the CJA Unit of the Clerk’s Office. A sealing order is not required. CJA documents include vouchers (CJA forms 20, 21, 24, 30 and 31), the Financial Affidavit (CJA form 23), all supporting documentation, budget plans and orders, funding requests and authorizations, interim payment orders, and travel requests and orders. Documents maintained in the CJA financial file shall not be disclosed to the public except as provided by statute, by the Guide to Judiciary Policy, or by order of the court.

Status of Vouchers

The CJA Unit makes every effort to expedite the processing of vouchers. Vouchers that are in compliance with this Manual and the CJA Guidelines take less time to audit and approve. Payment of the vouchers required to be sent to the Ninth Circuit for approval may be delayed. Appointed attorneys are requested to refrain from contacting the CJA Unit to check on the status of a voucher until 60 days has elapsed from submission of the voucher.

1099 Reporting

The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 requires that the court track and report to the IRS all payments made to CJA panel attorneys, regardless of the amount. This will be done by obtaining the Social Security number of appointed counsel at the time of panel counsel's creating a profile in the eVoucher system; however, only the last four digits of the Social Security number will show on eVoucher to protect the attorneys’ privacy. If the attorney has a pre-existing agreement with his/her law firm, the 1099 will still be reported under the law firm’s tax identification number and not the attorney’s number. Prior rules did not require 1099s to be issued when payments made to incorporated firms or payments totaled less than $600 in a calendar year, but now all payments are subject to reporting. In addition, beginning with calendar year 1999, amounts reported to IRS include expenses reimbursed. This is a change from the former practice of reporting only direct compensation to IRS, and is consistent with the reporting guidelines.

In certain circumstances, income should more appropriately be included on an employer’s 1099 instead of the 1099 for a service provider, e.g., paralegal or investigator who is actually in the employ of an attorney. The service provider should register this information in his or her eVoucher profile.


Reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with a CJA representation may be claimed on the CJA Form 20 or 30 voucher. Necessary and reasonable expenses will be compensated over and above fee maximums.

Supporting Documentation

Expenses should be thoroughly itemized under the "Expenses" tab in eVoucher. Supporting documentation, including receipts, should be scanned and uploaded under the "Documents" tab in eVoucher.  Receipts are required for any individual item costing more than $25.00 and all expenses over $50.00. Receipts must always be provided for the following expenses:

  • Outside copying, regardless of amount;
  • Travel expenses (such as lodging, phone calls);
  • Premium delivery and messenger services such as Federal Express, UPS, etc.;
  • Taxi fares, airport and/or regular parking fees, ferries, shuttles, and toll fees over $25.00;
  • Phone charges over $50.00 per month;
  • Postage over $50.00 per incident.

Reimbursement may be delayed because of failure to itemize or supply sufficient documentation of expenses. Vouchers not in compliance will be rejected and returned to counsel.

Associates in the Same Firm

It is expected that appointed counsel will personally appear and participate in all proceedings related to plea, detention, substantive motions, trial and sentence. In any case in which appointed counsel will be assisted by associate counsel, appointed counsel must seek prior approval before work commences. The request for such approval must be made by means of a funding request via email to the CJA Unit: cja@cand.uscourts.gov. The request must contain sufficient detail including the number of hours requested, the hourly rate and a brief outline of the functions and tasks to be performed by associate counsel.

By accepting appointment pursuant to the CJA, appointed counsel is obliged to ensure the aggregate hours expended by appointed counsel and the associate are reasonable. The use of associate counsel will ordinarily reduce the hours expended by appointed counsel. The amount authorized for the associate shall be subtracted from, and therefore reduce, the total amount authorized for appointed counsel. 

Upon approval of associate hours, the associate is entered into the eVoucher system and should create his or her own CJA 20 and enter time accordingly. The coordination of efforts between members of the same firm authorized to work on a case is the responsibility of the firm and not a reimbursable cost. If an appointed attorney associates another attorney within the same firm on an appointed case, only the appointed attorney will be compensated for reasonable time spent conferencing with the associate. Only one attorney will be paid for attending hearings, joint defense meetings, jail visits, meetings with clients or other meetings.

Vouchers of the appointed counsel and the associate should be submitted through eVoucher at the same time so that they can be audited at the same time. 

Unless the firm rate is lower, associate counsel are to be compensated at the rate of $75.00 per hour up to the rate of $115.00 per hour depending on experience in criminal defense practice and the work to be performed. General guidelines for rates can be found below. Go to CJA compensation rates page

 Up to 1 year       $75/hour
 1 - 2 years
 2 - 3 years
 3 - 4 years
 4 - 5 years
 5 - 6 years
 6 - 7 years
 7 - 8 years
 8 years and up

Assistant Counsel (Independent of a Firm)

Unless the judge has made a finding and appointed assistant counsel in a case, prior judicial approval is required for CJA funding of assistant counsel outside the firm.

The request for such services shall be by means of a funding request via email to the CJA Unit: cja@cand.uscourts.gov. The completed form shall contain the reason for the request, outline the functions and tasks to be performed by assistant counsel, the number of hours requested and the hourly rate to be paid in compliance with CJA Guidelines.

By accepting appointment pursuant to the CJA, appointed counsel is obliged to ensure that the aggregate hours expended by appointed counsel and the assistant counsel are reasonable. The use of assistant counsel will ordinarily reduce the hours expended by appointed counsel. The aggregate hours expended by all counsel shall be should be reasonably necessary for adequate representation. 

Payment under the CJA in such instances may be made to assistant counsel only for compensable time spent by counsel plus allowable expenses. The coordination of efforts between appointed counsel and assistant counsel authorized to work on a case is the responsibility of the appointed counsel. If an appointed attorney uses an approved assistant counsel on an appointed case, only the appointed attorney will be compensated for reasonable time conferencing with the assistant counsel. Only one attorney will be paid for attending hearings, joint defense meetings, jail visits, meetings with clients or other meetings.

Assistant counsel are to be compensated at the rate of $75.00 per hour up to the rate of $115.00 per hour depending on experience in criminal defense practice and the work to be performed; please see Associates in the Same Firm, above, for the guideline on determining the appropriate rate. Appointed counsel should include justification for the rate in the declaration supporting the application.

Assistant counsel should submit time through eVoucher on their own vouchers. Vouchers of the appointed counsel and assistant counsel should be submitted through eVoucher at the same time so that they can be audited at the same time.


Use of paralegals is encouraged but must be pre-approved if the expenditure will exceed $800.00, whether independent or employed in the same firm as appointed counsel. With the prior approval of the court, paralegals may perform case preparation services that are distinct from normal clerical support services. The CJA guideline rate is $35.00 to $55.00 per hour, depending on skills and experience. For paralegals who are employees, the appropriate hourly rate is the salaried hourly rate, plus costs of employer-paid basic benefits. Whether in house or independent, paralegals shall submit their claims for compensation into the eVoucher system. All paralegals have their own accounts in eVoucher. 

Computerized Legal Research

Computerized legal research fees are considered office overhead, as are other fees for library items. All CJA panel attorneys are expected to subscribe to a flat-fee research plan and the court will only provide reimbursement for computerized research when an explanation is provided: e.g., that fees imposed are outside the scope of the flat fee plan or why a flat fee plan is not feasible.


All in-house copying done in the attorney’s office, regardless of the number of copies made per copy job or per case, will be reimbursed at $.10 per page without prior approval. In-house copies are reimbursed as an expense on a CJA 20 or CJA 30 and claimed under the "expense" tab in eVoucher. Small outside copying jobs paid by the attorney are also reimbursed on a CJA 20 or 30 with a copy of the receipt attached and uploaded to eVoucher under the "documents" tab. Large copy jobs should be handled outside the attorney’s office at a negotiated rate more economical to the Court. Prior approval must be obtained for copy expenses over $800.00 per copy job. A funding request should be submitted for approval of these funds. Counsel should create a CJA 21 in eVoucher and attach the appropriate invoice for all approved requests. 

Interim reimbursement may be requested and should be authorized when counsel’s reasonably-incurred out-of-pocket expenses for duplication of discoverable materials made available by the prosecution exceeds $800.00.

Fax and Phone

Toll and long-distance charges for out-going case-related faxes and telephone calls are reimbursable, but local charges are not. Flat per-page fax charges are not reimbursable. Telephone toll charges in excess of $50.00 per month should be supported by a marked copy of the telephone bill. Collect calls may be claimed as expenses on a CJA 20. The documentation should be uploaded to eVoucher at the "documents" tab.


Reimbursement will be made for the actual cost of case-related regular U.S. postage. Receipts are only required if the postage cost exceeds $50.00 per instance.

Messengers/Couriers/Express Delivery Services

The use of messengers, couriers, and express delivery services (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, etc.) is discouraged unless there is a genuine necessity for this service. Receipts are required. The court favors timely filings by mail; costs of the above- listed services will be reimbursed for limited use.

Fact Witnesses

Expenses related to the testimony of a fact witness, either at trial or a deposition, including service of subpoenas, transportation, and other expenses such as deposition costs and witness fees, are governed by Rules 15 and 17, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 28 United States Code § 1825 and are borne by the USMS. Information on the procedure for arranging service of subpoenas and transportation can be found on the website of the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

Appointed counsel need to apply directly to the court (not through the CJA Unit) for an order approving the transportation of a fact witness. Once judicial approval is obtained, appointed counsel need to coordinate the travel and reimbursement of the expenses directly with the appropriate branch (San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose) of the U.S. Marshal’s Office. View a sample order for submission to the Court.

State Court/Other Ancillary Matters

Work related to state court proceedings or other ancillary matters will not be compensated unless the attorney obtains prior authorization from the court. Authorization should be requested through a funding request and approved before work begins on ancillary matters. If no prior authorization is obtained, a letter explaining the services must be submitted in support of the voucher and the payment will require approval by the judge presiding in the case. See Guide to Judiciary Policy §2.01F (www.uscourts.gov...).


Funding Requests for Services Exceeding $800.00

18 USC §3006A(2) provides that, in the absence of a subsequent finding by the judge that the services could not await prior authorization, no payment over $800.00 may be made without prior authorization by the judge. Additionally, 18 USC §3006A(e)(3) provides that compensation to any person providing expert services cannot exceed $2,400.00 unless authorized as a necessary payment and approved by the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit or his/her designee.

The funding request for such services shall be made on the Application for CJA Funds and submitted by email to the CJA Unit: cja@cand.uscourts.gov.

Specificity in Funding Request

18 USC §3006A(e)(3) provides for payments above the maximum where necessary to provide for fair compensation for services of an unusual character or duration. Any excess payment to an expert requires:

  1. A detailed submission by the appointed attorney justifying the payment;
  2. A certification by the trial judge authorizing payment; and
  3. Approval by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (or a circuit judge delegated that responsibility).

The justification submission from the appointed attorney must set forth the reasons for the expert service requested, including the basis for excess payment if the amount requested for any expert exceeds $1,000; the name and address of the expert and the expert’s specialty, e.g., investigator, forensic pathologist; the hourly rate and the projected total hours expended with a justification for that total. Appointed counsel will negotiate the lowest reasonable compensation rate and total time required with the expert. The Court has approved presumptive rates for various types of experts.

No Payments in Excess of Amount Authorized

As a practical matter, virtually all expert expenditures require pre-authorization by the judge. The judge should approve the appropriate rate of compensation and set a cap for the total expenditure authorized. Upon approval of funds for investigative services, experts, or other services, counsel is responsible for providing a copy of the authorization order to the service provider and communicating with the service provider to ensure that services comply with specific terms of the court order and do not exceed the amount authorized. An Information Sheet for Experts and Other Service Providers (.pdf) can be given to any provider; it outlines the terms of appointment and process for submitting vouchers. The CJA Supervising Attorney is not authorized to approve compensation for any claim for reimbursement of service providers which exceeds $800 and has not been preauthorized. Claims in excess of the $800 limit or exceeding the amount authorized by the judge will not be paid. The attorney will be advised of the amount which cannot be reimbursed and instructed to request additional funding authorization. If authorization is subsequently granted, a new voucher may be submitted for the uncompensated amount.

Order Final Upon District Court’s Approval

Funding orders signed by a district court judge will be considered a final order. Therefore, once signed, a copy of the order will be immediately served on counsel. The CJA technicians will thereafter forward the original signed order to the Circuit for approval and maintain a copy of the order approved by the Circuit. If the Circuit disapproves the order, the Clerk’s Office will immediately provide a copy of the order to the district judge to permit the judge to contact counsel, terminate further use of the services, or resolve the problem as the court finds appropriate.

Submission and Routing of Funding Requests

All funding requests, even when the ultimate destination is to the divisions in San Jose or Oakland, should be submitted for routing through the CJA Office in San Francisco. This allows our office to track the requests and monitor whether the order has been signed, avoiding delay for attorneys and service providers.

Expert Vouchers

As outlined above, all expenses over $800.00, including but not limited to copying, investigators, experts, and paralegals, must be pre-approved before payment will be authorized. Once authorization is received, the order will be entered into eVoucher. All expert service provider vouchers must be submitted through eVoucher. Without a funding order, the voucher will be returned to the attorney and will not be paid

View/download the step-by-step reference guide for attorneys to creating and submitting CJA 21 and CJA 31 vouchers in eVoucher (.pdf).

Appointed counsel are responsible for requiring experts to submit invoices which are sufficiently detailed to permit review in a similar matter to that described for appointed counsel. Appointed counsel must review the expert’s invoice and voucher to ensure the service provider’s claim is consistent with the appointed attorney’s instructions and accurately reflects the services actually rendered. By signing the attorney certification in eVoucher for the CJA 21 or CJA 31, the attorney certifies the validity and appropriateness of the services provided by the expert. Counsel are not authorized to pre-pay experts and request later reimbursement.   All Expert Service Providers, except investigators, paralegals and discovery coordinators, must complete and submit to the attorney a Certificate of Service form with their invoice. 

CJA 21:

If the expert has been retained on a one-time, non-recurring basis, the attorney may submit the CJA 21 for payment in full before the end of the case. View/download the step-by-step reference guide for attorneys to creating and submitting CJA 21 and CJA 31 vouchers in eVoucher (.pdf)

For cases that are complex or extended, or cases in which the expert’s services are required during the pendency of the case, the attorney may request and justify periodic or interim payments to the experts rather than waiting until the end of the case. The approval of both the trial judge and Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit must be obtained.

CJA 31:

For cases commenced on or after April 24, 1996, an interim payment order must be approved by the judge and by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. For all cases commenced on or after April 24, 1996, the fees and expenses for investigative, expert and other services are limited to $7,500 for all services in any case unless payment in excess of that amount is certified by the trial judge as necessary to provide fair compensation for services of an unusual character or duration, and the amount of the excess payment is approved by the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Expert Presumptive Rates

View Expert Compensation Rates Page 

Expert Presumptive Rates in Cases Other Than Capital Habeas Cases Effective January 1, 2009:

Rate approved for experts in the Northern District of California effective January 1, 2009 for cases other than capital habeas cases:

  • Psychiatrists and other medically-licensed mental health experts, $275-$350 per hour;
  • Other forensic experts, $125-$200 per hour;
  • Psychologists (Ph.D.), $150-$250 per hour;
  • Neuropsychologists, $200-$275 per hour;
  • Attorneys serving as experts, $160 per hour;
  • For any expert listed above who testifies at a court proceeding, compensation is eight times the hourly rate per day or four times the hourly rate per half day.

Absent court approval, hourly rates for experts may not exceed the presumptive rates. In exceptional circumstances, when the need for services at a higher hourly rate can be justified, the court may authorize hourly rates above the presumptive maximum.

Expert Presumptive Rates For Capital Habeas Cases Effective October 30, 2008:

Rates approved for experts in capital habeas cases by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit:

  • Psychiatrists and other medically licensed mental health experts, $275 per hour;
  • Other Forensic experts, $200 per hour;
  • Psychologists (Ph.D.), $200 per hour;
  • Strickland experts, up to the maximum allowable for CJA counsel;
  • Any expert listed above testifying at a court proceeding shall receive eight times the hourly rate for a full day or four times the hourly rate for a half day, or the actual hours, whichever is less.

Absent court and Judicial Council approval, experts may not exceed the presumptive rates.


Investigators are required to observe the same guidelines as attorneys for recordkeeping and using the least expensive, reasonable method to provide services to indigent defendants. Those guidelines are set forth in the “Attorney Compensation and Recordkeeping” section of the manual. Investigators shall enter their time into eVoucher and submit all claims for compensation through eVoucher. 

For Cases Other Than Capital Habeas

  • The hourly rate for investigators is $55 to $75 per hour, depending on skill and experience. If the investigator is proficient in the foreign language of the case, the rate, when the investigator uses the skill of the foreign language, is from $65 to $85 an hour.
  • The hourly rate for direct death investigators is from $75 to $100 an hour, depending on skill and experience.

For Capital Habeas Cases

  • The hourly rate for investigators is up to $75.00 per hour.


As of September 21, 2015, the hourly rate for interpreter services (plus travel) billed through CJA is $75.00, billed in 6-minute increments. 

A courtroom interpreter hired by the Clerk whose services are not needed in the courtroom may be used by CJA counsel for out-of-court CJA services for the remainder of the period for which the interpreter’s services were contracted. To arrange for the services of an interpreter between the hours of 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-4 p.m., attorneys should contact the Spanish Staff Interpreter at (415)522-2655 for Spanish speaking interpreters and the Jury Office at (415) 522-2124 for all other languages.

The interpreter is also entitled to travel expenses. All interpreter expenses should be billed on a CJA 21 or 31. Interpreters must use the CJA Interpreter Invoice (one per day) to submit their time and expenses to the attorney. Claims for document translation must be made on the CJA Interpreter Invoice for Document Translation. Invoices must be accompanied by the Service Provider's Certification of Service, which must be signed by the interpreter.

Although uncommon, cancellations of interpreter appointments occur. Some interpreters require a 24-hour cancellation or impose a two-hour minimum fee. If billed, according to the Office of Defender Services of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, if a reasonable explanation is provided, CJA may compensate only for actual out of pocket expenses of mileage and the time required to get to and from the appointment. Accordingly, attorneys should make every effort to provide interpreters as much notice as possible in the event of cancellation. Interpreters are an integral and valued part of effectively representing indigent defendants.

The hiring of an interpreter is normally considered a one-time expense which may be billed by the interpreter immediately. If the attorney anticipates a continuing need for interpreter services over $800.00, a funding request and order must be obtained in accordance with the CJA Guidelines for expert or other ancillary services.

Psychiatrists, Psychologists

CJA funds are used to pay for psychiatric and related services obtained in accordance with Subsection (e) of the CJA upon a determination that the services are “necessary for an adequate defense.” These are “defense” services, where the defendant selects the expert and controls the disclosure of the expert’s report. It is important to note that psychiatrists and related experts may be used in many circumstances in which payment is made from a source other than the CJA appropriation. In these situations the court or the government selects the expert, and persons other than the defendant also have access to the expert’s report. The Department of Justice (DOJ) generally pays for these “non-defense” services. The downloadable summary chart of responsibility for payment of psychiatric and related expert services (.pdf) summarizes payment responsibility for the various circumstances in which psychiatric and related services are utilized.


In any case where depositions are required, counsel should contact the CJA Supervising Attorney for specific information regarding funding.

Transcripts of Proceedings 

Fees for transcripts furnished in criminal proceedings to persons proceeding under the Criminal Justice Act are paid on the CJA 24 by the United States out of CJA funds appropriated for that purpose.

IMPORTANT: Starting September 21, 2015, ALL transcript requests, authorizations, and payments will be made through the eVoucher system.

All requests for transcripts and authorizations for payments are submitted through eVoucher. Court reporters have access to eVoucher and will submit their claims for compensation through the eVoucher system.

Steps to obtain a transcript (you may also download a step-by-step guide):  

  1. Attorney completes a CJA 24 through eVoucher. If special authorization is needed, attorney includes a detailed justification. 
  2. If the request is approved, the court reporter is notified by email through the eVoucher system to begin preparing the transcript.
  3. Once the transcript is complete, the court reporter uploads it to ECF, emails a copy to the attorney and submits a voucher for his or her services to the attorney through the eVoucher system.
  4. The attorney reviews and approves the voucher and confirms through eVoucher that payment should be made.  

View/download a step-by-step guide to ordering transcripts through eVoucher.

View/download eVoucher guide for court reporters.  

View Transcript Rates.

Order CD and/or Transcript of Proceedings in Magistrate Judge Cases

If the minutes do not indicate a court reporter was present, but instead indicate “FTR” or “tape,” then a copy of the audio is available upon request and payment. You have two choices:

  1. You may order a transcript of the audio recording, using the process described under "How to Order a Transcript" above, or
  2. You may order the audio recording in an audio format.

View instructions for ordering an audio file of an audio recording of a court proceeding.

To order a transcript of an audio recording, the attorney should follow the steps for ordering a transcript in eVoucher in the preceding section.   

Multi-Defendant Cases

In multi-defendant cases involving CJA defendants, no more than one transcript should be purchased from the court reporter on behalf of all CJA defendants. One of the appointed counsel should then arrange for the duplication, at commercially competitive rates, of enough copies of the transcript for each of the CJA defendants for whom a transcript has been approved. The cost of such duplication will be charged to the CJA appropriation. This policy would not preclude the furnishing of duplication services by the court reporter at the commercially competitive rate.

Transcripts for Appeals

Judicial Conference policy states: “It is the sense of the Conference that a substantial number of criminal appeals can be fairly conducted without a full transcript of all testimony and proceedings… All counsel should be required to exhaust all efforts to perfect appeals without full trial transcripts, by use of such traditional devices as preparation of limited transcripts, and preparation of an agreed statement or other summary of the evidence.” (Report of the Proceedings of the Judicial Conference of the United States, October 1971, pages 61-62.)

Counsel should refer to the Local Rules of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which require that within 7 days after filing the notice of appeal, the appellant must order from the reporter a transcript of such parts of the proceeding as he or she deems necessary and complete certain other related tasks.

Transcripts for a case on appeal are designated through a Transcript Designation Form (CAND-TDF). They are ordered using the CJA 24, Authorization and Voucher for Payment of Transcript, through eVoucher (see above).

View/download Transcript Designation Form (CAND-TDF).

View instructions for completing CAND-TDF.  


Travel Time

Compensation shall be approved for time spent for necessary and reasonable travel. Ordinarily, allowable time for travel includes only those hours actually spent in or awaiting transit. For further clarification on travel time, refer to the Guide to Judiciary Policy, Volume VII, Chapter II, Part 2.26. Travel time should be recorded in eVoucher using the appropriate designation. 

Mileage, Tolls, and Parking

Daily travel in a privately owned vehicle does not require prior authorization. The extent of the daily travel must have been reasonable and necessary. Travel by privately owned vehicle is reimbursed at the mileage rate prescribed for federal judiciary employees who use a vehicle to conduct official business. Refer to the mileage chart (under “Travel Information”) on the CJA website for the mileage rates. If a rental car is authorized, the traveler is reimbursed for the cost of the rental and the gas. Receipts must be submitted for both the rental and the gas. Other reimbursable costs are parking fees, public transportation (BART, Muni, Ferry) fares and bridge tolls. Airfare is limited to the government authorized rate and must be pre-approved.

Meals are not reimbursable during daily travel unless the travel period exceeds ten (10) hours.

Airplane and Overnight Travel

All overnight travel and all travel by airplane must be approved in advance by the CJA Supervising.

Here are the steps: 

  1. The requesting attorney or expert should complete the CJA Travel Request & Authorization (.pdf) form, stating the purpose, itinerary, duration, and estimated expenses for the trip.
  2. In preparing the travel request, the attorney or expert should visit the GSA website for current per diem rates (www.gsa.gov ...) and contact National Travel (NT) to determine government travel fares to provide an accurate estimate and to take advantage of government rates for travel. 
  3. Submit it by email to the CJA Unit:    CJA@cand.uscourts.gov
  4. If the request is approved, the CJA Unit will e-mail the attorney the approved Travel Request and Order and further travel instructions which will enable the traveler to contact NT and make his/her travel arrangements at government rates. (If the attorney is not the traveler, it is the attorney’s responsibility to transmit the Travel Request and Order to the traveler. Travel arrangements must be finalized promptly after the travel is authorized.) 


Compensation will be approved for time spent in necessary and reasonable travel. Ordinarily, allowable time for travel includes only those hours actually spent in and awaiting transit. Travelers must travel in coach class; any other arrangements must be detailed and specifically approved. A special account has been established with NT which will facilitate direct billing to the government of the authorized airfare. NT may be contacted at any time, 24/7, at 1-800-445-0668, to obtain travel cost quotes. If air travel expenditures cannot be made at government rates, reimbursement to the attorney or expert for the travel costs will be limited to the amount of the government rate. Government tickets are refundable due to loss, change, or cancellation. If the traveler uses a non-government rate and loses the tickets or needs to change or cancel the reservations, he or she is liable for the cost; is not reimbursable under CJA.

If for any reason the traveler is unable to use the airline tickets issued by NT, it is his or her responsibility to immediately return the unused tickets to NT with a letter explaining why the tickets were not used and notify the CJA Unit.

Meals and Lodging/Per Diem Rates

Actual expenses incurred for meals and lodging while on overnight travel outside of the city or county of your residence in the course of a CJA representation must conform to the prevailing limitations governing travel and subsistence expenses of federal judiciary employees. Since the amount allowable is dependent upon the place of travel, please consult the GSA website. Meals and lodging are included in per diem rates; other expenses, such as taxi fares, rental car charges, etc. are not included in the per diem rate and may be claimed separately if receipts are provided.

Meals are generally only reimbursable when overnight travel is authorized. You must provide detailed restaurant bills and not just credit card slips. Alcoholic beverages, in-room movies, and other non-essential items are not reimbursable.

The Traveler’s Responsibilities

Upon submission of the CJA 20, 21, 30, or 31 voucher for reimbursement for the period of the authorized trip, all expenses (except airfare) should be documented in the form of original receipts which verify costs incurred. The expenses should be submitted, itemized, and in chronological order. All receipts should be uploaded to the appropriate voucher under the "document" tab in eVoucher.  


The following are NOT reimbursable under CJA:

  • General office overhead, such as secretarial help (whether regularly or specially employed), rent, office supplies, or equipment; telephone lines or service (although telephone toll calls are reimbursable). Attorneys will not be compensated for secretarial duties such as filing of court documents, mailing, faxing, copying, etc.
  • Books, journals, or other publications.
  • Computerized legal research, except when fees exceed flat fee agreement. (See section entitled “Computerized Research,” p. 9, supra.
  • Billing for time needed to prepare vouchers, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Taxes paid on attorney compensation received pursuant to the CJA, whether based on income, sales, or gross receipts.
  • The cost of printing briefs is not reimbursable, although the cost of photocopying, or similar copying services is reimbursable.
  • Filing fees: These fees are waived for persons proceeding under the CJA. Fees for deeds of trust to secure a defendant’s release are not compensable under the CJA; these fees are paid for by the person(s) securing the collateral.
  • Personal items and services for the client, such as clothing, cleaning or pick up or delivery of clothing or personal items, hair cuts, cigarettes, transportation, lodging, travel, meals, costs of assisting the defendant in the disposition of his or her personal property, arranging for the placement of minor children of the defendant, assisting the defendant in executing the conditions of probation, assisting the defendant in modifying bond terms such as drafting applications for his or her travel, providing legal assistance in matters unrelated to the litigation of the case although incidental to the defendant’s arrest, etc. Payments by counsel for such items will not be reimbursed.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Costs related to educational seminars, including travel, attendance, registration or materials.
  • Expenses related to the testimony of a fact witness, either at trial or deposition, including service of subpoenas, transportation and other expenses, are not reimbursable under the Criminal Justice Act, but rather are governed by Rule 17, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 28 United States Code § 1825. View more information on fact witness expenses.
  • PACER costs are not reimbursable. Appointed attorneys can apply for a no-fee account and should contact the PACER Service Center in San Antonio at 1-800-676-6856 for more information.
  • Time and expenses involved in the preparation of an appeal (whether from interlocutory orders or final judgments) or work related to the review of proceedings before this court. These are considered as applicable to the case before the United States Court of Appeals, and should be included on the voucher for services performed in that court.
  • Work related to state court proceedings will not be compensated unless the attorney obtains prior authorization from the court. See “State Court/Other Ancillary Matters” above.


Counsel appointed to represent an individual in a capital prosecution or a capital habeas case are expected to comply with the provisions outlined in this manual, where applicable. In addition, the following information is specifically pertains to representation in capital cases.


It is the intent of this Court to work with counsel in an effort to manage the costs of capital habeas litigation. In furtherance of this objective, counsel are expected to prepare a budget for tasks to be performed by attorneys and paralegals and expenses to be incurred for investigators, expert witnesses and other costs. The Judge assigned to the case will oversee the budgeting procedure in conjunction with the CJA Supervising Attorney. The electronic budgeting and voucher process will be initiated in all open cases pending in the Northern District.

Phased Budgeting

Phased budgeting has been implemented to ensure continuing court supervision and to control costs. The phases include:

  1. Appointment, Record Review, Assembling the Record, and Preliminary Investigation;
  2. Preparation of the Petition and Exhaustion Issues;
  3. Motion for Evidentiary Hearing and Briefing of Claims Not Subject to Evidentiary Hearing;
  4. Evidentiary Hearing and Final Briefing. Each phase will require separate approval.

Budget forms are emailed to counsel by the CJA Supervising Attorney. When counsel is appointed to a capital habeas case, the court will issue a case management order outlining procedures to be followed in capital habeas cases and setting a date for the submission of the budget for the first phase. In cases in which counsel has already been appointed, the budgeting process will be initiated after exhaustion in the state court.

Budget Submissions

For each phase, counsel should submit by email to the CJA Supervising Attorney the following: Confidential Case Evaluation form (updated as necessary), the proposed budget, and a detailed declaration outlining specifics as needed to support the budget requests, including any relevant case law which supports a particular request. The Confidential Case Evaluation must support a finding that any requested experts or other services “are reasonably necessary for the representation of the defendant,” 21 U.S.C. § 848(q)(9), including, but not limited to, a specification of:

  1. The factual issues requiring expert or other assistance;
  2. The facts suggesting that such investigation, expert, or other assistance is warranted;
  3. Whether the evidence existed at the time of the state trial;
  4. The purpose for the evidence on federal habeas; and
  5. An estimated budget for each task, specifying the proposed billing rate within the maximum rates established by the Court and the total amount of the funds requested.

Once the Confidential Case Evaluation is submitted, the CJA Supervising Attorney will contact counsel to discuss the proposed budget. The court will issue an order approving a budget or schedule an ex parte conference to resolve any questions or unresolved issues.

The court will give due regard to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 848(a)(9). Thus, counsel should briefly outline reasons for the confidentiality of the budget in the supporting declaration. All documents relating to the budget will be filed in the CJA confidential file.

Support Staff/Experts

Appointed counsel are expected to utilize paralegals and other cost-effective means to minimize costs where attorney expertise is not required. Appointed counsel are not permitted to earn a profit from use of support staff. The hourly rates for staff or an independent must be consistent with the maximum rates established by this Court and outlined in the preceding sections of this manual, unless otherwise authorized by the Court. Use of associates, paralegals, law clerks, summer associates, and law students must be pre-approved in conjunction with case budgeting or a funding request; such requests must detail the projected number of hours and the hourly rate and total anticipated expenditure. To avoid duplication of efforts and excessive staff conferencing, the court expects that counsel will develop a reasonable division of labor between counsel, and between counsel and other staff.

Approval of any budget item will serve as approval of attorney’s fees and expenditures for experts, investigators, paralegals, etc., unless the Court specifically notes otherwise. In certain circumstances to be specified by the Court, the Court may require a subsequent written request to outline specifics not previously provided in the budget. While a budget request is pending, counsel may proceed with necessary tasks until notification by the Court order as to resolution of the budget. Absent good cause or excluded conditions, fees and expenditures in the case shall not exceed the budget for each phase.

To the extent that any task is not ultimately required, the authorized hours will be adjusted accordingly. Within a particular phase, attorney hours may be transferred from one task to another; similarly paralegal hours may also be transferred from one task to another. As to experts and other services, unused funds from one service provider cannot be allocated to another service provider.

In the event that counsel believes a modification to the budget is required, counsel must not exceed the budgeted amounts approved without first seeking an amendment of the budget, explaining in detail why additional funds are required and receiving the court’s permission to incur any such costs. In planning for the litigation of this case, counsel must file any proposed amendments to the budget far enough in advance to give the court adequate time to consider the request and issue a ruling thereon without impeding the progress of the litigation.

All budget Orders for all phases are subject to approval by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council.

Division of Labor

The appointment of two attorneys is not presumed. In cases where two attorneys are appointed, only one counsel will be compensated for attendance at court hearings unless permission is granted by the Court. Compensation will not be approved for attendance at Court hearings by additional support staff, including law clerks, paralegals and investigators without permission from the Court.

Unless permission is granted by the Court, no more than two staff persons (two attorneys or one attorney and one paralegal or investigator) will be compensated for time expended in interviews and meetings with experts and witnesses.

In cases where one attorney has been appointed from within the Northern District of California and one attorney is from out of the district, local counsel should attempt to conduct most of the client visits whenever possible. The Court urges counsel to develop a division of labor between counsel to minimize billing of time and travel expenses for client visits by out-of-district counsel.

When two counsel are appointed as co-counsel and are both compensated at an equal hourly rate, it is expected that a division of labor will be developed to ensure that each counsel will perform tasks in a relatively independent manner, minimizing duplication. When lead counsel is appointed at a higher hourly rate than second counsel, it is understood that more coordination and oversight by lead counsel will be required.

The court expects that counsel will develop a reasonable division of labor between counsel, and between counsel and other staff, to avoid duplication of effort and excessive staff conferencing. Counsel should minimize time claimed for such items as internal conferences and memos, coordination between co-counsel, and coordination between counsel and staff, such as investigators and paralegals. Compensation will not be approved for unreasonable claims in these areas.

Guidelines issued by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit permit payment for review of the record (e.g., written documents, pleadings, transcripts, etc.) at a rate of 60 pages per hour.


Case budgeting is required in all capital prosecutions. As soon as counsel is informed that the death penalty will be sought in connection with the prosecution of a criminal case, appointed counsel should contact the CJA Supervising Attorney (415-522-2822) to discuss budgeting procedures in such cases.