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About the Criminal Justice Act Panel

The Criminal Justice Act Panel is a group of qualified and court-approved attorneys who are eligible for appointment by the Court to represent individuals in criminal cases who are unable for financial reasons to retain counsel. The appointments are made by the Court on a rotating basis among members of the panel.

All applicants must have their principal place of business within the appropriate venue of the Northern District of California. For the San Jose venue, this includes the counties of Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz. For San Francisco/Oakland, this includes the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma.

Applicants must have demonstrated experience in, and knowledge of, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and, in the absence of unusual circumstances, shall have the following qualifications:

At least five years criminal practice in state or federal court, or three years of experience as an Assistant United States Attorney or Assistant Federal Public Defender.

In the case of the trial panels, five federal or state felony jury trials or any combination thereof. Any panel member who has not tried two federal criminal jury trials must audit two pre-trial proceedings including motions hearings, two sentencing hearings and two jury trials in federal criminal cases pursuant to the mentor program established under this plan or its equivalent before being appointed to a case.

In the case of the appellate panel, ten federal or state felony appeals or combination thereof. Five of the required appeals may be replaced with equivalent experience such as criminal trials, habeas corpus proceedings, or complex criminal or civil matters settled short of trial.

For more information, please visit the website for the United States District Court for the Northern District.

How do I join the CJA Panel?

Counsel are appointed to the CJA panel for a three year term, and can be reappointed for subsequent terms. To become a member of the panel, counsel must be qualified to practice in the district, and must submit an application for review by the CJA Committee.

For practitioners who do not have federal experience, the Federal Public Defender's Office offers a mentoring program. Interested counsel may contact CJA Panel Administrator Ruben Deang at (415) 436-7700.

May CJA counsel use the resources of the Federal Public Defender's Office?

CJA counsel serve a vital role in the vigorous defense of indigent clients, and the Defender's office is pleased to offer all assistance possible. CJA counsel can meet clients at the FPD office, and may use the office library if an issue arises while in court. The duty AFPDs are also available to answer legal questions from CJA counsel.

The FPD Office unfortunately does not have the resources to provide full office space or staff support to the entire CJA panel.

The Northern District of California provides attorney lounges in the San Francisco (18th floor), Oakland (4th floor) and San Jose (1st floor) courthouses for the comfort and convenience of attorneys practicing in the court.

The court's attorney lounges are open during regular building hours and offer:

  • Daily newspapers

  • Wireless internet

  • Telephones

  • Private telephone rooms

  • Beverage vending machines

  • Fax machines

  • Private conference rooms

What trainings do you offer for attorneys?

The Office of the Federal Public Defender presents an annual seminar providing information on practice in federal court and substantive federal law updates. As an approved provider of Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credits, the Office of the Federal Public Defender provides additional criminal defense training programs throughout the year. 

The Office of Defender Services offers a multitude of programs available all over the country in a variety of topics related to criminal defense. Please visit their website to get up-to-date information on their latest training offerings and resources.