CJA Panel difficulty

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swtlilsoni
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Joined: Tue Jun 09, 2009 1:00 am

CJA Panel difficulty

Postby swtlilsoni » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:11 pm

Is it hard to get on a CJA panel? Do they require experience or do they take recent grads?

Is the fed CJA a lot harder than state or about equal?
Is appellate a lot harder than trial or about equal?

the options are: state trial, state appellate, fed trial, fed appellate

JusticeJackson
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Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:26 am

Re: CJA Panel difficulty

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:21 pm

I only have experience in 3 districts, but federal CJA is almost impossible to get as far as I can tell. Lots of PDs leave the PD’s office with the plan to supplement their income through he CJA panel. I know of former prosecutors that do the same. In the 3 districts I’ve worked in, those folks, who have significant criminal experience and lots of face time with the people that choose the panel, are invariably taken first.

I know some jurisdictions have a CJA mentorship panel, which is basically a bunch of CLEs on criminal trial practice run by current PDs. That might be a good way to get experience and face time with the folks that choose the panel.

Anonymous User
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Re: CJA Panel difficulty

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:46 pm

swtlilsoni wrote:Is it hard to get on a CJA panel? Do they require experience or do they take recent grads?

Is the fed CJA a lot harder than state or about equal?
Is appellate a lot harder than trial or about equal?

the options are: state trial, state appellate, fed trial, fed appellate


For fed, it really depends on the district and judges in that district. Major cities tend to have a lot more lawyers and more stringent requirements to get onto the CJA panel (since a lot more people want to be on the CJA panel). But even then it's hard to generalize because it varies so much as to how fed appointments are done and how difficult it is to get them. For example, with respect to appeals, in some districts, there's a fed defender appellate atty who oversees the CJA panel attorneys handling appeals. In other districts, the CJA trial atty might get to keep the appeal. In other districts, most of the appeals go to the fed defender even if a CJA atty handled the trial court stuff.

Smaller cities have less lawyers and can be easier to get onto the CJA panel (but not always). In some smaller cities, they actually require all fed admitted attorneys practicing in that city to take appointments (e.g. there are district court judges that force civil attys, who know nothing about fed crim practice, to take fed criminal appointments). But in other smaller cities, it's about being known as good by the fed judges there (because the judges are worried about appointing cases to inexperienced attys).

State stuff is probably the easiest to get appointments to (this obviously is not covered by the fed criminal justice act), but generally pays pretty terribly. (But, on the other hand, in some fed districts, the judge himself deals with all of the CJA bills, and it could be years until you get paid for a case (depending on how quickly that judge works); whereas, in other districts, the fed defender will have an attorney who basically just deals with CJA billing and whatnot).

Basically, I don't think anyone can generalize and give you an answer that might help you since there's just so much variation as to how each district operates. If you were to provide what cit(ies) you're looking to take appointments in, it's possible that someone on here who practices as a CJA attorney in that city could provide you with a meaningful answer, but my guess is that's pretty unlikely.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: CJA Panel difficulty

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Oct 17, 2017 2:53 pm

Federal CJA requires a decent amount of felony trial experience for the felony trial panel. Not sure about misdemeanors but if you go to the local district court web page there will be info about the CJA panel and often it includes what’s required for appointment.

I think in some ways appellate would be easier to get because the skills needed are really different and it’s easier to learn research/writing without direct experience than it is to learn trial stuff without direct experience. Like some PD systems put new folks on appeals to start. But I have no idea how that plays out in practice.

Anonymous User
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Re: CJA Panel difficulty

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:56 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:Federal CJA requires a decent amount of felony trial experience for the felony trial panel.


Even this really depends on the fed district and the judges in that district. There are districts that require all attorneys admitted to the courts bar to accept criminal appointments (for obvious reasons, they will still only appoint attorneys who practice nearby). The judges in some of those districts will appoint purely civil attorneys who have no experience handling fed criminal cases to represent criminal defendants (which is kind of rediculous, in my opinion). It seems like the smaller the city, the smaller the pool of available CJA attorneys, so in some cities, it seems like the judges basically force local counsel to take criminal appointments even though they're clearly not competent to handle those cases. In larger cities, there's so many attorneys that want CJA appointments relative to CJA cases that the judges can be a lot more selective as to who they want to appoint (which isn't to say that some judges won't appoint random attorneys who aren't necessarily wanting to take criminal appointments--it really depends on the district and judges within that district).




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