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Criminal Justice Act

The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) provides funding for the representation of individuals with limited financial resources in federal criminal proceedings. In each district, a plan exists for providing representation through private panel attorneys and, where established, federal public or community defender offices. This year, a new federal public defender office was added in the Northern District of Alabama.

A total of 229,188 representations by counsel under the CJA were opened, a rise of 10 percent from 2011. Growth occurred in openings of representations in immigration cases—nearly all involving illegal entry by aliens—and in cases in which prisoners convicted of crack cocaine offenses sought reductions of their sentences under a recent amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines.

Federal defender organizations in 60 districts had more representations opened this year. The largest percentage growth occurred in the Eastern District of North Carolina (up 110 percent), the District of Puerto Rico (up 94 percent), the Western District of North Carolina (up 52 percent), and the Southern District of Ohio (up 50 percent). Increases in these districts stemmed from sentencing in crack cocaine cases. In addition, in the District of Puerto Rico, more cases involving firearms offenses were opened this year. Openings rose 24 percent in the Western District of Texas and 17 percent in the Southern District of Texas because of illegal entry cases. The largest percentage reductions occurred in the Eastern District of Arkansas (down 23 percent) and the Western District of Washington (down 13 percent).

Representations closed by the 80 federal public and community defender organizations (including representations in criminal matters, appeals, and habeas corpus proceedings) climbed 12 percent to 135,579. Representations closed by appointed panel attorneys grew 5 percent to 91,424. The number of private attorneys paid through the CJA panel attorney payment system was 9,359.

For a summary of federal defender appointments under the CJA for the past five years, see Table S-21. For information on representations for each federal public and community defender organization, see Table K-1.