Federal public defender pay rates cut

Todd Ruger over at The National Law Journal/ Law.com this morning has a report that “the U.S. Judicial Conference has announced plans to reduce compensation rates to the private Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys by $15 per hour starting September 1—and continuing for the next 13 months—if Congress does not increase funding for the courts in the 2014 budget, saving around $50 million for the defender services budget, which funds the federal public defender offices as well as CJA panel attorneys, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Panel attorneys handle about 30 to 40 percent of indigent cases when the public defender has a conflict or otherwise can’t represent a defendant.

“The savings would allow the federal courts to prevent further staffing layoffs at federal public defender offices, which took the brunt of $350 million budget cuts to the courts this year as part of sequestration,” Ruger writes, referencing a letter from conference chairman William Traxler, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. “Under the new plan, payment to panel attorneys would drop from $125 per hour to $110 per hour in non-capital cases, and from a maximum of $179 to $164 per hour for capital cases. The Judicial Conference already had planned to delay September’s payments to panel attorneys for four weeks so they could be paid out of the new budget year starting October 1.”