Absent a change in financial conditions, the district court appointment of Criminal Justice Act (CJA, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A) counsel for an indigent client continues on appeal. In its discretion, the Tenth Circuit may then continue the appointment of that attorney on appeal, may appoint a Federal Public Defender, or may appoint a lawyer from the court’s appellate CJA attorney panel. However, trial counsel wishing to withdraw must first perfect the appeal.
The Tenth Circuit’s CJA Plan establishes a formal appellate CJA attorney panel. Appellate panel attorneys accept representation of indigent criminal defendants and habeas petitioners for the appeal either (a) in substitution for trial counsel permitted to withdraw, or (b) for an unrepresented (pro se) defendant or petitioner when the court determines that appellate counsel should be appointed.
Appellate CJA Panel attorneys must be or become, and remain, members of the Tenth Circuit bar in good standing. They must conform to the highest standards of professional conduct, including, but not limited to, the provisions of the American Bar Association’s Code of Professional Responsibility.
Panel attorneys must have a working knowledge of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and federal criminal law, the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and the court’s CJA Plan, and be available to accept at least one CJA appellate appointment each year.
To be considered for appointment to the court’s appellate CJA panel, an attorney must complete and submit an application accompanied by an appellate writing sample and a resume/CV. Applications are accepted annually.
After reviewing these materials, checking bar admission status and references, the court’s CJA Standing Committee meets annually in Denver to discuss the qualifications of each applicant and make a recommendation to the court. The Committee may also investigate complaints concerning panel attorneys and, if appropriate, recommend removal. The judges of the Tenth Circuit then review the committee’s recommendations and make the final decision regarding each attorney’s membership on the appellate panel.
Over eighty attorneys are currently appointed to the Tenth Circuit’s appellate CJA attorney panel, including lawyers from within the Tenth Circuit (Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming) and several attorneys with offices outside the circuit.
The court’s CJA Supervising Attorney, SueAnn Fitch, manages the day-to-day assignments of the panel and provides guidance and training on CJA processes, including payment requests, to all attorneys handling CJA appeals in the Tenth Circuit, both those on the panel and those continuing from trial court. Ms. Fitch can be contacted at 303.335.2846 or SueAnn_Fitch@ca10.uscourts.gov.
Detailed CJA information is set out in the national CJA Guidelines and the court’s Advice to CJA Counsel letter. Additional CJA-relevant information can be found on this website at: All CJA Forms and Links.