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CJA Panel Information

We receive many inquiries into the services provided by and how to become one of our Criminal Justice Act Panel members. We have put together some answers to frequently asked questions to help you understand what is required of our panel attorneys and how to apply to become a member.

Click any question to expand the answer.

     What is a panel attorney?

The Indiana Federal Community Defender’s Office appears initially for all clients brought into federal court who have not retained counsel. If more than one defendant is on a particular case, or if our office has another conflict with providing counsel for the defendant, we will arrange for the court to appoint a private lawyer, known as a panel attorney. The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) of 1964 created a comprehensive system for appointing and compensating lawyers to represent financially eligible defendants in federal criminal proceedings.  Private counsel providing services under the CJA are selected from a group of attorneys who have applied for membership to the panel, have been selected by the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s office, and approved by the court.  The CJA authorizes hourly compensation and reasonable out of pocket expenses for appointed lawyers. 

     How can I join the panel?

Each year, the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s Office accepts applications from those private attorneys who wish to join the panel. These positions are highly competitive.  If additions to the panel are warranted by the case load from the prior year, panel applications will be accepted once yearly in September. If you wish to join the panel, you may sign up for our newsletter which will provide you notice when we are accepting applications. Your application and resume will be reviewed by the Chief Federal Defender and a committee assigned to review applications. The Chief Federal Defender and the Committee will then make suggestions to the court regarding who should be appointed to the panel. As these positions require complex knowledge of criminal law, experienced criminal defense attorneys are encouraged to apply. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. 

     How long will I be on the CJA panel if I am selected?

The CJA panel attorneys serve three year terms. At the end of the term, however, if they wish to be reappointed, they may express their interest in ongoing membership to the Chief Federal Defender. A panel member may be reappointed for another three year term with no limit to the number of terms they may serve. 

     What is the development panel?

One of the goals of the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s Office is to provide attorneys who do not yet have the requisite experience for membership on the Criminal Justice Act Panel the ability to assist a Federal Community Defender or member of the CJA panel in a “second chair” role in order to gain the experience necessary to provide high quality representation to defendants in federal court cases. Members on the development panel are matched with a mentor who they assist with ongoing federal cases. 

     How can I join the development panel?

Each year, the Indiana Federal Community Defender’s Office accepts applications from those who wish to join the development panel. If additions to the panel are warranted, panel applications will be accepted once yearly in September.  If you wish to join the panel, you may sign up for our newsletter which will provide notice when we are accepting applications. Your application and resume will be reviewed by the Chief Federal Defender and a committee assigned to review applications. The Chief Federal Defender and the Committee will then make suggestions to the court regarding who should be appointed to the development panel. Attorneys seeking membership on the development panel need not demonstrate the level of experience necessary to join the CJA panel itself, but a strong interest in providing criminal defense for the indigent must be demonstrated.