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Anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act

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Resolution in Recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act1, March 2004

The Judicial Conference of the United States recognizes the fortieth anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A, which has created a nationally heralded program, administered by the Judiciary, for the appointment and compensation of counsel to represent individuals who have been charged with a federal crime and cannot pay for their defense. The statute ensures that all defendants in federal court receive the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

The Criminal Justice Act program has adapted to dramatic changes in the criminal justice system over the past 40 years. Today, due to the ever-burgeoning federal criminal caseload, federal defender organizations and private "CJA panel" attorneys furnish over 140,000 representations per year to financially eligible persons. The complexity of federal criminal practice has increased substantially since 1964, as have the time commitment and skill level required of defense counsel. Federal defender organizations, authorized by a 1970 amendment to the Criminal Justice Act, now serve 84 of the 94 federal judicial districts. The commitment of Congress to fund the Criminal Justice Act program, and of the Judiciary to support it, together with the dedication of thousands of federal defender personnel and CJA panel attorneys, have produced an assigned counsel program that delivers professional, cost-effective representation.

By ensuring the fair treatment and effective representation of all persons accused of federal crimes, the Criminal Justice Act protects the rights and liberties of all citizens. The statute, and the defender program that it created, have become models for nations seeking to adopt the rule of law, including the right to the effective assistance of counsel, as part of their criminal justice systems.

The federal Judiciary has been a proud steward over the Criminal Justice Act program, which has become a fundamental and critical component of the American criminal justice system.

1. JCUS-MAR 04, pp. 14-15.