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Criminal Justice Act - Judicial Business 2017

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 organizations. This year, 81 federal defender organizations (64 federal public defender organizations and 17 community defender organizations) served 91 of the 94 federal judicial districts.

A total of 185,214 representations by counsel under the CJA were opened, a decrease of 23 percent. Ninety-five percent of all federal judicial districts had lower caseloads. Almost 70 percent of the reduction occurred in the types of cases that had surged in 2016 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. In 2017, the largest percentage increases occurred in the District of Puerto Rico (up 53 percent) and the District of South Dakota (up 8 percent). The largest percentage decrease was in the Northern District of Indiana (down 69 percent), which had experienced a 104 percent jump in representations the previous year in cases filed pursuant to Johnson.

Representations closed by the 81 federal public and community defender organizations (including representations in criminal matters, appeals, and habeas corpus proceedings) fell 14 percent from the previous year to 127,414 (in 2016, the growth in representations following Welch also was associated with a 17 percent increase in closings of representations that year). Representations closed by appointed panel attorneys decreased 10 percent from 2016 to 72,553. The number of private attorneys paid through the CJA panel attorney payment system in 2017 was 8,279.

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.