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Defender Services - Annual Report 2014

The AO’s Defender Services Office supports 81 authorized federal defender organizations serving 91 of the 94 federal judicial districts, and the Criminal Justice Act attorneys who provide defense counsel for those unable to bear the cost of representation.

Celebration of Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 50th Anniversary 1964 – 2014

2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act (18 U.S.C. § 3006A), signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Courts and federal defender organizations across the country commemorated the signing with special events. A federal Judiciary video was released focusing on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Sequestration Recovery

The Defender Services program continued its recovery from the budget cuts that occurred during sequestration, and the resulting loss of staff and employee furloughs. Staff levels in federal public defender organizations reached a high point of 2,779 in October 2012, and began to decrease rapidly during sequestration, bottoming out at 2,358 in March 2014, a decrease of 421 (15 percent). During this time, it was a challenge for existing staff to handle caseloads. As of October 2014, the current staffing level is 2,514 – still significantly below the October 2012 on-board level. It is a continuing priority of Defender Services to ensure that the effects of the budget cuts do not damage the right to counsel guarantees of the Criminal Justice Act and the Sixth Amendment.

Work Measurement Study

A work measurement study of federal defender offices began in January 2014 with a target completion date of June 2015. Data collected from all federal defender offices will be analyzed and result in a work measurement formula that will determine the overall staffing and budget of the federal defender program and individual offices. A steering group of 12 federal defenders appointed to assist this effort suggested important changes to the protocol, including use of the federal defender data collection tool called defenderData. Case type and workload drivers also will be factored in the data collection, resulting in a much richer data set for analysis. The first wave of data collection for defender offices in half of the federal circuits began in September 2014 and ended in October 2014. The second wave of data collection for the remaining circuits began in October 2014 and ended in November 2014.