FAQs - Appointed Counsel

Q.  What types of appointments are made by the court?

The court makes the following types of appointments:

  • Direct criminal appeals: In appeals from federal convictions, the court automatically appoints district court counsel unless there is a motion for withdrawal or substitution, in which event new counsel is appointed from the court's CJA Panel. CJA appointment is also automatic if the state or federal government appeals the grant of post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or 2255.
  • Discretionary CJA appointments: In collateral appeals in which there is no right to representation, the court makes discretionary appointments at the direction of a judge or panel of judges.
  • Discretionary IFP appointments: When formal briefing and oral argument are required to resolve a civil or agency appeal by an indigent litigant, the court appoints counsel using its discretionary authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. These appointments are often referred to as assignments.
  • Amicus appointments: When formal briefing and oral argument are required to resolve an appeal in which the appellant is not indigent, the court appoints amicus counsel to address the issue as a friend of the court. These appointments are often referred to as assignments.

Q.  How do I apply to become a member of the court's CJA Panel?

The annual application period for the court's CJA Appellate Panel is generally open from June 1 to September 1. Fourth Circuit bar members with experience in federal criminal law and appellate procedure are invited to apply for panel membership using the CJA Panel Application Form.  Counsel must be a member of the Fourth Circuit Bar. Applications are reviewed by the CJA Appellate Panel Committee, and the court takes final action on the applications in the fall.  Appointments to the CJA Panel extend for a 3-year term. For members whose terms have expired, reapplication can be made by an abbreviated application for renewal within 12 months of expiration of membership. Additional information may be found on our Appointed Counsel page. 

Q.  How do I withdraw from a case?

Counsel appointed in the district court who wish to withdraw from CJA representation on appeal may file a motion to withdraw in electronic form or, if not an ECF filer, in paper form -- counsel is not required to register for electronic filing for the sole purpose of withdrawing from the case. An attorney who has entered an appearance may withdraw only with consent of court after giving notice to the party represented. A motion to withdraw should state fully the reason for the request. Loc. R. 46(c).

Compensation

Q. What is the hourly compensation rate?

The hourly compensation rate for CJA and non-CJA cases is $126. The hourly compensation rate for capital counsel is $180.

Q. What are the compensation limits?

  • CJA Cases: In non-capital cases, the CJA imposes a cap on compensation of $7000 in direct criminal, habeas corpus, and section 2255 appeals. The CJA imposes a $2100 cap on compensation in bail, supervised release revocation, interlocutory, and post-judgment appeals. Compensation in excess of these limits can be requested in an extended or complex case in which excess payment is necessary to provide fair compensation.
  • Capital Cases: In capital cases, there is no limit on compensation, but counsel anticipating that they will expend a total of more than 300 hours on representation at the appeal stage or 100 hours on representation at the certiorari stage must file a proposed budget with the court of appeals within 21 days of appointment.
  • Non-CJA Cases: In civil, civil rights, agency, and amicus cases, counsel is appointed using the court's discretionary authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and the court pays a modest amount from its Admission Fund. Local Rule 46(d) establishes a cap of $750 plus expenses, but the cap may be exceeded upon motion and justification.

Q. What is the statutory case maximum

The statutory cap on case compensation is exclusive of "Travel Expenses" and "Other Expenses."  If another attorney is substituted during the appeal, the maximum applies to joint compensation. See 7 Guide to Judiciary Policy § 230.23.20 for detailed information on case compensation maximums.

Q. When do I file a payment claim?

The court issues a voucher for payment when it enters judgment in a case. Counsel should complete and file the voucher within 60 days from entry of judgment, denial of rehearing, or grant or denial of a petition for certiorari, whichever is later. In capital cases, counsel files two separate vouchers – one upon completion of the appeal and one upon grant or denial of a petition for certiorari.

Q. Can I file a claim before final disposition of the case?

If undue hardship is caused by extraordinary and substantial expenses and case delay, such as in death penalty or similarly significant matters, counsel may move for issuance of an interim voucher, setting forth in detail the reasons for the request. 

Q.  Can I file a late CJA claim?

Counsel may file a late CJA claim, but the claim must be supported with a detailed explanation as to why the claim was not filed within 60 days of final disposition.

Q. How long does it take to process a payment claim?

The court seeks to process vouchers within 30 days of receipt.

Q. What can I claim?

The Fourth Circuit traditionally does not compensate for filing, drafting, and/or serving the notice of appeal as those services are compensated through the district court. The nunc pro tunc date indicated on the CJA 20 is the date the notice of appeal was filed or a date that the court deems relevant to counsel’s appointment, and counsel will be compensated from that date until termination of the representation.

Q. When will travel expenses be reimbursed?

Travel expenses will be reimbursed at the end of the case. Counsel must retain detailed receipts of all authorized travel expenses for reimbursement on the voucher filed at the conclusion of the case.

Q. Is travel to visit a client reimbursed?

Prior approval is required for travel to visit a client. If counsel is unable to conduct the necessary exchange with his client over the phone and through correspondence, counsel may file a motion that must contain the estimated cost, i.e., compensation (include travel and interview time) and expenses (estimated airfare, mileage, car rental, lodging, meals, etc.). Allowable time for travel includes only those hours actually spent in or awaiting transit.

Q. Who can be reimbursed for travel to oral argument?

The court reimburses court-appointed counsel on counsel's final voucher for travel to attend oral argument.  Plane or train travel may be arranged through National Travel Service at government rates, and the court will pay National Travel Service directly for counsel's ticket.  Associates or partners will not be reimbursed for travel with court-appointed counsel.

Q. What if a hotel will not honor government rates?

Court-appointed counsel can transmit this court’s order of appointment and the oral argument notification to the hotel for proof that counsel will be on government business. (In some situations the government rates are simply not available as the block of rooms the hotel reserves for government rates have already been filled.)

Q. How are translator or interpreter services reimbursed?

Counsel requiring interpreter services or translator services should contact the district court for a listing of service providers and request advance authorization from the court of appeals, setting forth the cost based on the estimated number of hours at a rate not in excess of $55 per hour for the interpreter if certified and $32 per hour for the interpreter if not certified or setting forth the cost of the translator based on the estimated number of words at a rate not in excess of $165 per 1,000 words. Counsel filing an Anders brief must arrange for an interpreter or translator to convey the substance of the filing to the defendant. Upon the granting of a motion for a translator or interpreter at CJA expense, the Clerk will issue a CJA 21 to counsel for payment of translator or interpreter services.  

Q. How are copies for appellant's personal use reimbursed?

Counsel may claim reimbursement for copying portions of the record for the appellant, up to $75, and for providing appellant with a copy of the briefs and joint appendix.  Any copying charges incurred in copying the transcript for appellant other than described above must be pre-approved by order of this court. A motion to approve additional expenses must include an estimated page count and cost per page.