How do I become a Criminal Justice Act Panel Attorney (CJA) for the Middle District of Florida?

Panel attorney should first contact the Office of the Federal Defender (OFD), in the division they wish to serve (Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Ocala). You will be provided orientation DVDs which focus on federal practice and the federal sentencing guidelines. You will also be notified to participate as "second chair" in a trial with an Assistant Federal Defender (AFD). You will request a letter from the AFD, of your attendance to attach to your application. Once you have met these requirements, you will complete an application. Application forms for CJA Panel membership are available at Once the clerk receives your application, the OFD will be notified by the Court to certify your educational requirements. The OFD will forward this information to the magistrate judges for their consideration. If appointed, the OFD will provide you with additional information.

What is the criteria for a CJA Panel Attorney?

Applicants must be members in good standing of the Bar of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and The Florida Bar; Have at least two years experience as an attorney licensed to practice in any state or the District of Columbia; Have sufficient competence to furnish high quality representation to criminal defendants in the District Court; and must have demonstrated experience with, and knowledge of, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Bail Reform Act of 1984, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and legislation, rules, or guidelines which supersede, amend, or supplement the above.

What is the term of a CJA Panel Attorney?

Three years. Every three years the panel attorney must re-apply to be considered by the Court for reappointment.

Who administers the CJA Panel?

The Federal Defender's office maintains an up-to-date master list of all attorneys included on the Panel with current addresses and telephone numbers. The Courtroom Deputies also maintain a list for appointment purposes. The Federal Defender's Office promulgates weekly duty rosters for the Orlando Division only. What is the duration of a CJA appointment?

A defendant shall be represented at every stage of the proceedings from initial appearance before the magistrate or the District Court through appeal, including ancillary matters.

How is a CJA Panel Attorney assigned to a duty week?

Assignments to duty weeks are done by a random selection. It is solely the luck of the draw! Orlando duty attorneys are selected by the Office of the Federal Defender and notified at least two weeks in advance that they have been assigned to a duty week. Attorneys are expected to be available to the Court on a two-hour notice for duty. Other divisions are selected by the Judge's Courtroom Deputy.

Are there mandatory seminars that a CJA attorney must attend?

Each panel member shall annually attend, at his/her own expense, an annual continuing legal education, specifically concerning federal criminal practice and the federal sentencing guidelines. The legal education must be provided or approved by the Office of the Federal Defender, MDFL. Notification will be sent, via email, from the Office of the Federal Defender, when it is time to certify your educational requirement.

Is there a mandatory removal process?

Yes, any member whose right to practice law in the district or state has been suspended or revoked shall be removed from the panel. In addition, the Court shall, at its own discretion, remove an attorney from the panel or chose not to reappoint that attorney after the three-year term.

How much do panel attorneys get paid?

Hourly rate is $148 IN/OUT of court (cap: $11,500 - a memorandum to exceed the cap should be included with your voucher, for the court's consideration, at the time you submit the voucher for payment). No cap on expenses, however, a receipt is required for all meals, hotels, and any telephone bills over $50. Copying out of the office is no more than .25 cents per copy; In-house copying .15 cents per copy. Mileage is currently $0.58/Mile (subject to change). Overnight reimbursement is based on a case-by-case basis. Pre-approval is required by motion. In addition, if expenses exceed "the norm" pre-approval should be sought. APPEALS: $8,200 cap.