In cases in which there is a right to counsel on appeal, the clerk automatically appoints the attorney who represented the defendant in the district court to continue that representation on appeal. If, however, the attorney has moved to withdraw, the defendant is claiming ineffective assistance of counsel in the district court, or the notice of appeal was filed pro se and out of time, a new attorney is appointed on appeal. The new attorney on appeal is appointed either from the court's CJA Panel or from the Office of the Federal Defender, in accordance with the provisions of the CJA Panel Plan.
To qualify for the CJA Panel, attorneys must be members in good standing of the Fourth Circuit bar and have demonstrated experience in, and knowledge of, federal criminal law and appellate procedure and the Sentencing Guidelines. Attorneys must also maintain a physical office within the circuit since the Plan's appointment provisions generally call for appointment of counsel from the district in which the case arose.
Counsel applies for membership on the CJA Panel using the CJA Panel Application. The CJA Panel application period runs from June 1 to September 1 each year. Panel membership is for a three-year term, which can be renewed by filing a Renewal Application.
Applications are reviewed by the CJA Panel Committee, which is chaired by a circuit judge and includes a representative from each district within the circuit. The committee makes its final recommendations to the court of appeals each fall after completing its review of the applications.
Rotating Case Appointments
Case appointments are offered initially to the Federal Defender for the district from which the appeal arises. If not accepted by the Federal Defender, the appointment is offered, on a rotating basis to a member of the CJA Panel for the district in which the appeal arises. CJA Panel members or Federal Defenders from outside the district are appointed as needed to equalize appointments or utilize special skills.