CJA FAQ: Paralegals & Service Providers

  • Services of an investigator/expert have been retained and fees are more than $800. What should I do?

    Any claim for investigators or other experts (listed in Block 13 of the CJA21 Form), that is more than $800, requires prior approval of the court before the claim may be processed.  If you did not file a motion to incur expenses, you must file one now, nunc pro tunc, to get the court’s approval, and then file the claim on a CJA21 form.  You must attach a copy of the court order and the expert provider must include documentation showing the dates of service, hours expended, rate charged and any allowable expenses.  All motion to incur expenses are sealed and must be submitted to the clerk’s office with a disk containing the file in PDF format and a sealing envelope reflecting the case caption and description of the document. 

  • I have an interpreter who has gone to prison with me on more than one occasion. I receive separate invoices from him/her. Can I submit these on separate vouchers or do I have to submit everything together as one claim?

    The interpreter should submit one claim for all dates of service to you.  If you use different interpreters, each one should submit a separate claim.  If you are using one interpreter and the cumulative compensation is going to exceed $800, you are required to file a motion with the court to get approval to use the services.  If you know this will happen early on in the case, make the motion and get permission right away.  This will avoid problems later on when we are trying to pay the interpreter bills.

  • When an interpreter performs services for both the court and a CJA panel attorney on the same day, are there any rules?

    An interpreter may not bill the court or appointed counsel fro services performed during the same time period.  Such would constitute double billing.  Nor may a fee be prorated be prorated between the court and appointed counsel, although a fee and expenses may be prorated among appointed counsel.

  • If an interpreter provides in-court interpreting and provides interpreting services immediately before or after the proceeding to assist a panel attorney in communicating with the client, is it appropriate to bill under the CJA?

    A judicial officer or a clerk could authorize in advance the use of a contract court interpreter for a short CJA attorney-client consultation in the courthouse immediately before and/or after a proceeding.  The services would be included as part of the in-court interpreting payment.  In addition, under the court interpreter’s contract, the contract court interpreter may not bill any other judiciary-funded entity or person (which would include charging for services performed under the CJA), for the time period the interpreter is paid under the contract. [See the Guide, Vol. 5, Section 220.20]

  • If an interpreter is billing under the half- and full-day method and interprets for one or more CJA panel attorneys in connection with more than one CJA representation within the same half-day, how would the interpreter bill for the work?

    The interpreter generally would have the option of either prorating the half-day among the CJA representations, or billing the entire half-day rate to one representation.  The interpreter may not bill the entire half-day on multiple vouchers.  The supporting voucher materials must explain the method of billing and indicate the number of other CJA representations involved.  The CJA representations should be identified by name or case number only if the work was performed for the appointed attorney who will be certifying the voucher.

  • Is there a prescribed rate of pay that must be paid to interpreters obtained by a panel attorney?

    While there is not a nationally prescribed rate of pay for interpreters obtained by a panel attorney, the rates paid for interpreters, as for all service providers, must be reasonable.  Interpreters performing services under the CJA generally are paid either an hourly rate (some courts have established presumptive hourly rates), the half- and full-day rates established by the AO Director for in-court interpreting, or other reasonable compensation and expenses, based on the specific circumstances.

  • What rate are CJA attorneys allowed to charge for paralegal or legal assistant services provided by their in-house employees?

    The court will determine a reasonable hourly compensation rate.  It may not exceed the lesser of the CJA hourly attorney rate or the rate typically charged by counsel to a fee-paying client for paralegal or legal assistant services.  The guidelines direct the court to authorize compensation for such services at rates that result in greater efficiency and lower costs for the CJA program than would occur if counsel performed and charged for the services. [Guide, Section 320.70.50]

  • Can court-appointed counsel be reimbursed under the CJA for the services of an “in-house” paralegal or legal assistant? Can court-appointed counsel hire an “outside” paralegal or legal assistant to work on a case?

    Yes, the CJA guidelines authorize appointed counsel to utilize paralegal or legal assistant, and other necessary services.  It is immaterial whether the person providing the services is an in-house employee or independent.  Counsel may obtain up to $800 worth of such services without the court’s prior authorization; however, the court will ultimately decide whether the expenditures were reasonably incurred when reviewing the voucher.  [Form CJA21 or Form CJA31] Counsel must obtain the trial court’s prior authorization to obtain paralegal, legal assistant or other services in excess of $2400.  Counsel must obtain the chief circuit judge’s prior authorization to obtain services in excess of $2400 in a non-capital case. [Guide, Section 320.70.50]

    Counsel should use the Form CJA21 or Form CJA31 to request the court’s prior authorization and to submit claims for compensation and reimbursement of expenses for paralegal and legal assistant services.