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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 opened in the Western District of Arkansas.

A total of 227,645 representations by counsel under the CJA were opened, a decline of 1 percent from 2012. Decreases occurred in representations opened in immigration cases–nearly all involving illegal entry by aliens–and in cases dealing with the retroactive application of federal sentencing guidelines amendments to persons convicted of crack cocaine offenses. Representations in such cases had risen in 2012 and fueled overall growth of 10 percent that year.

The largest percentage reductions occurred in the District of South Carolina (down 45 percent), the Southern District of Indiana (down 41 percent), the Southern District of Mississippi (down 37 percent), the Northern District of Indiana (down 36 percent), the Middle District of Florida (down 33 percent), the District of Puerto Rico (down 33 percent), and the Central District of Illinois (down 32 percent). The largest percentage increase occurred in the Northern District of Alabama (up 395 percent), but the federal public defender office there opened during 2012, and it received 406 new cases over the course of a full fiscal year in 2013. The District of New Mexico reported a rise of 130 percent largely consisting of first-appearance representations at arraignment. The Southern District of Texas attributed its growth of 23 percent to immigration cases.

Representations closed by the 81 federal public and community defender organizations (including representations in criminal matters, appeals, and habeas corpus proceedings) increased 4 percent to 140,260. Representations closed by appointed panel attorneys fell 2 percent to 89,606. The number of private attorneys paid through the CJA panel attorney payment system was 9,074.

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.