The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts issued an important decision for lawyers who represent indigent clients. ()
A judicial committee has reversed a sequester-related pay cut for lawyers in private practice who represent indigent defendants in federal criminal cases.
Starting March 1, those “panel attorneys” will generally make $126 an hour, while lawyers in capital cases will earn $180, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said in a statement issued Feb. 13. Last August, the executive committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States had chopped the standard fee from $125 to $110 an hour in response to the across-the-board budget cuts.
As part of a final fiscal 2014 spending plan approved this week, the committee restored the higher hourly rate and an added one percent inflation-related increase to push it to $126. The decision follows the signing of a full-year appropriations bill that partially rolls back another round of budget cuts scheduled for this year. Under the bill, the judiciary will get about $6.5 billion, or roughly equal to its pre-sequester funding level for last year, the news release said.
Under the plan, the courts will also not have to delay payment for some fiscal 2014 indigent defense work into 2015, the release said. Last September, a $20 million shortfall forced the courts to stop paying lawyers for the final two weeks of the fiscal year.
The Judicial Conference is the main policy-making body for the federal courts and judiciary.