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Defender Services - Annual Report 2010

Stakeholder groups training for voucher payment processing

Voucher payment processing was streamlined during FY 2010 with the introduction of the Electronic Criminal Justice Act Voucher Processing System. Stakeholder groups helped develop training for users of the software.

Improving Criminal Justice Act Voucher Processing

A project is underway to streamline and improve the submission and processing of CJA vouchers electronically. In FY 2010, the Electronic CJA Voucher Processing System (eCJA VPS) project team, assisted by its working group of 22 court managers and staff from across the country, defined the requirements of the future application. Liaison judges from the Conference Committees on Defender Services, Information Technology, Budget, and Court Administration and Case Management were involved. Pilot testing with multiple courts is projected to begin in early FY 2012.

In addition, a national CJA voucher training program was developed with assistance from a working group of 15 court managers and staff. Five regional sessions were held to solicit training requirements from court, federal defender, and panel attorney representatives involved in the voucher payment process. Training includes an instructor-led module, online reference tools, and quick reference sheets. For the instructor-led training, eight one-day, train-the-trainer sessions took place during fall 2010 and winter 2011.

Federal Defender Case Weight Study

A study to assess the feasibility of developing a system of case weights for federal defender organizations was completed in December 2010. The study recommendations were submitted to the Committee on Defender Services at its meeting that month. The Committee will consider changes to budgeting practices that may enhance the accuracy of the defender services program's assessment of staffing requirements.

Litigation Support for Federal Defenders and CJA Panel Attorneys

The use of technology to assist in analyzing electronic data is critical to effective representation. The Committee on Defender Services has approved five strategies to meet the defender services program's growing litigation support needs more effectively and efficiently. A key component is the purchase of an "evidence review platform" consisting of one or more software applications that will permit the capture, organization, analysis, and review of case-related electronic data. The platform is expected to include both a network application to be used within federal defender organizations and a web-based version for large cases involving federal defender organizations and CJA panel attorneys. A national software license will reduce the costs associated with multiple purchases in individual cases, simplify training for defense teams on the use of software, and increase overall productivity and efficiency. The procurement process for such an evidence review platform began during fiscal year 2010 and is expected to be rolled out nationally by the end of 2011.

Case Budgeting Pilot Study

In 2010, The Federal Judicial Center completed an evaluation of the Judicial Conference-approved pilot project approved in September 2005, to provide judges with objective case-budgeting advice. The project goal is to improve the accountability and management of high-cost CJA panel attorney representations. For more than three years, the pilot has funded attorney positions in the Second, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits through the Defender Services account, to support the case-budgeting process. The Federal Judicial Center evaluated the pilot, found that the case budgeting attorneys help to contain costs while improving the quality of representations, and prepared a report for December 2010 review by the Committee on Defender Services.