CJA Fee Review Committee
The CJA Administration Committee established the CJA Fee Review Committee (FRC) to investigate and review vouchers submitted by appointed counsel and service providers to the CJA Unit of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The purpose of the FRC is to assist the court in ensuring 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 in voucher review.
II. Initiation of Review.
Attorney and service provider vouchers will be reviewed by the CJA Fee Review Committee in any of the following circumstances:
- Upon request by the presiding judge or the CJA Supervising Attorney, for review of a specific voucher or series of vouchers;
- Upon referral by the CJA Supervising Attorney for assessment of an appointed attorney’s or service provider’s general billing practices;
- Upon timely written request to the CJA Supervising Attorney by appointed counsel or a service provider for a voucher that has been reduced by an amount exceeding $375.00;
- Upon referral by the CJA Supervising Attorney for a random audit.
The FRC shall conduct a review and investigation to determine whether the panel attorney’s or service provider’s voucher conforms to the court’s billing guidelines, is reasonable considering a funding authorization and/or the circumstances of the case, and is otherwise accurate and proper. The investigation may include review of vouchers submitted by other panel members or service providers in the same, or similar cases, a review of court files, records of detention facilities, and/or interviews of panel members or service providers including the individual whose voucher is being reviewed.
No provision of this section shall be construed as permitting disclosure to the panel member or service provider of information from which they may infer the source, and no information shall be disclosed to the panel member or service provider or be obtained by any process which would jeopardize the confidentiality of communications for persons whose opinions have been sought in the investigation.
In the event that the FRC determines that a voucher does not comply with the court’s billing guidelines, is unreasonable, or is not otherwise accurate or proper, the CJA Supervising Attorney shall so notify the appointed counsel or service provider in writing, specifying the reasons therefor. The panel attorney or service provider may provide a written response within 10 days. After reviewing the response, the FRC shall make a recommendation regarding any reduction in the voucher it deems appropriate. A copy of this recommendation will be provided to the presiding judge, the CJA Supervising Attorney, and to the panel member or service provider. The presiding judge will give significant weight to the FRC’s recommendation in making a final determination. Whether the court adopts the FRC’s recommendation or not, the court’s decision is final and there shall be no additional right of review or further appeal. Any determination that a voucher should be reduced does not necessarily constitute a finding of wrongdoing.
All information gathered pertaining to a CJA panel member or service provider during the fee review process shall be the property of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and is to be treated as confidential. Votes of the FRC shall also be confidential and its members shall not disclose to others in any manner the name of the panel member or service provider audited, the discussions, deliberations, or action of the FRC concerning any audit, information obtained during investigation or deliberation of the FRC, or any documents related to the foregoing, unless ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction.
VI. FRC – Member Selection and Terms.
The FRC members shall be appointed by the CJA Administration Committee to investigate and review fee vouchers submitted by CJA attorneys or service providers. The FRC shall be comprised of at least three and no more than five people, all of whom shall be current or former members of the CJA panel and shall have handled at least ten cases of varying types pursuant to appointment under the Criminal Justice Act. Members of the FRC shall be appointed for two year terms expiring at the end of a calendar year. There is no prohibition against reappointment for additional terms.
VII. Conflict of Interest.
A member of the FRC shall recuse himself or herself from any and all participation in the consideration of a panel attorney or service provider voucher or from attempting to influence others with respect to such consideration, in the following circumstances:
- The committee member is the current or former law partner or associate of the panel attorney, or a former employer of the service provider;
- The committee member, or the law firm or office with which the committee member is affiliated, represents the panel attorney or service provider;
- The committee member, or the law firm or office with which the committee member is affiliated, is a party to pending litigation in which the service provider or panel attorney member, or the law firm or office with which the panel attorney member is affiliated, is a party;
- The committee member or his or her spouse is related to the panel attorney or service provider by consanguinity or affinity within the third degree according to the rules of civil law;
- The committee member stands in the relation of guardian and ward, conservator and conservatee, employer and employee, or principal and agent to the panel attorney or service provider;
- The committee member has appeared as an expert witness or acted as a consultant or has been consulted with reference to an actual or threatened lawsuit against the panel attorney or service provider for malpractice;
- The committee member has any personal bias or prejudice concerning the panel attorney or service provider which would prevent the committee member from fairly evaluating all of the evidence;
- The committee member represents or represented one party in the matter for which the request for compensation is being reviewed where the panel attorney to be audited represents or represented another party or where the service provider worked on behalf of another party.
In the event that a member of the FRC does not voluntarily recuse himself or herself, the Chair of the CJA Committee, shall, upon becoming aware of factors which may indicate a potential conflict of interest as described above, initiate an inquiry and make a determination as to whether or not such member should be recused. Any resulting determination in that regard shall be binding.