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Criminal Justice Act - Judicial Business 2016

The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) provides funding for the representation of individuals unable to bear the cost of counsel 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 organizations. This year, 81 federal defender organizations (63 federal public defender organizations and 18 community defender organizations) served 91 of the 94 federal judicial districts.

A total of 242,075 representations by counsel under the CJA were opened, an increase of 7 percent. Sixty-five percent of all federal judicial districts served by federal defender organizations and panel attorneys had larger caseloads this year compared to 2015. Growth in representations occurred after Welch v. United States held that Johnson v. United States applied retroactively and made prisoners serving sentences enhanced under an unconstitutional clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act eligible to have their sentences vacated or remanded (for more information on these decisions, click here). The largest percentage increases occurred in the Northern District of Indiana (up 104 percent), the Western District of Tennessee (up 65 percent), the Eastern District of Tennessee (up 63 percent), the Southern District of Alabama (up 60 percent), and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (up 60 percent). The largest percentage decrease was in the Central District of Illinois (down 42 percent), which had seen a spike in representations the previous year in “Drugs Minus Two” cases affected by the retroactive application of Amendment 728, which adjusted by two levels the Drug Quantity Table used for sentencing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c).

Representations closed by the 81 federal public and community defender organizations (including representations in criminal matters, appeals, and habeas corpus proceedings) rose 17 percent from the previous year to 148,794. Representations closed by appointed panel attorneys grew 2 percent from 2015 to 80,535. The number of private attorneys paid through the CJA panel attorney payment system was 8,713.

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.