The Criminal Justice Act and the CJA Guidelines ("CJA") provide that Court appointed defense counsel can obtain funding for the fees and expenses associated with hiring an expert, investigator, or other professional (e.g., paralegals, interpreters) to assist defense counsel. See 18 U.S.C. SS3006A(e) and Chapter 3 of the Guidelines for the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act and Related Statutes. Obtaining such assistance can make all the difference in your case.
How To Obtain Funding
In order to be eligible for funding under the CJA, professional services to aid counsel must be necessary to ensure adequate representation of the defendant. The maximum reimbursement for expert, investigative, or other professional fees incurred without prior court approval in non-capital cases is currently $800.00 per case (excluding expenses). Funds expended on services with prior court approval do not count towards the $800.00 without prior court approval limit. (If the service provider's work on the representation was completed before May 27, 2010 see CJA Guideline SS 310.20.10 (a) for maximum reimbursement amounts.) In rare instances, the court can waive this limit for fees that the court finds could not wait for prior authorization. In order to avoid the $800.00 limit, you should seek authorization early on in your case, before incurring any expenses. Prior authorization by the presiding judge currently allows you to contract for up to $2,400 in fees in non-capital cases. (If the service provider's work on the representation was completed before May 27, 2010, see CJA Guideline SS 310.20.30(a) for maximum reimbursement amounts.) Expenses incurred by investigators, experts, and other professionals are also reimbursable and do not count against the fee maximums. If you know that the amount of the expert fees is probably going to exceed the $2,600.00 limit you will need to apply to the presiding judge for certification that funds in excess of the maximum are necessary. This request is forwarded to the Chief Judge of your Circuit Court of Appeals, who holds approval authority.
Note that the procedure for requesting authorization to obtain computer hardware, software, or litigation support services also includes prior consultation with the National Litigation Support Team of the Office of Defender Services. See SS 320.70.40 of the CJA Guidelines for further details.
The CJA anticipates that the application for funds for expert, investigative, and other professional fees will be made ex parte. It states that the presiding judge must seal the request and order and may not disclose the application without the defendant's approval.Litigation Support Page and CJA Panel Attorney Resources: A Guide to Litigation Support Software & How to Obtain Resources in the CJA System