CJA Panel

The 2021 CJA Plan

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an accused the right to representation by counsel in serious criminal prosecutions.   The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) of 1964 (18 U.S.C. § 3006A, as amended) establishes a comprehensive system for providing legal representation for accused persons who are financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. Montana’s CJA Plan (the Plan) was adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and became effective in October of 2018.  An updated Plan was approved by the Ninth Circuit on February 26, 2021.  

The Plan implements the Criminal Justice Act and outlines when counsel must or may be appointed as well as the qualifications and duties of appointed counsel – whether they are employees of the Federal Defenders of Montana or a member of the CJA Panel.   It also establishes a CJA Panel Selection Committee to assure the proper composition, administration, and management of the panel of private attorneys to be appointed under the Act.  The current membership of the CJA Selection Committee is published in the CJA section on the website of the U.S. District Court.  

Appendix B to the CJA Plan outlines CJA Panel Management Protocols.  It was adopted on November 22, 2019, and updated on October 1, 2021.   Appendix B outlines the mentor program for new panel members who are not familiar with federal court practice, sets out policies and procedures for subpoenaing witnesses, ordering transcripts, and obtaining investigators, experts, and other service providers.   It also establishes billing and voucher requirements as well as review processes.  

The full plan and all appendices are posted in the Criminal Justice Act Section on the official website of the United States District Court for the District of Montana.  The Ninth Circuit’s Model CJA Panel Plan and the Circuit's CJA Policies and Procedures, revised January 31, 2022, can be accessed here.

Membership on the CJA Panel

The Montana CJA Panel consists of experienced, highly qualified attorneys who specialize in, or who have a demonstrated competence in, federal criminal defense. CJA Panel Attorneys must maintain the highest standards of criminal defense, effective federal sentencing advocacy, thorough understanding of the United States statutes, and familiarity with local and national rules. A comprehensive list of qualifications is found beginning at page 8 of the Plan.

To assure that each member of the panel receives sufficient CJA assignments each year to maintain these standards, the CJA Selection Committee has established the following Divisional Panel Membership limits:

Division

Membership Limit (Vacancies)

Billings 19 (1 Vacancy)
Great Falls 14 (3 Vacancies)
Helena 7 (3 Vacancies)
Missoula (Including Butte) 18 (0 Vacancies)
Appeals Only 2 (0 Vacancies)

One of the functions of the CJA Committee is to recommend approval of qualified candidates to fill open positions. To apply for membership on a Divisional CJA Panel submit a completed application form. The completed form should be emailed in Adobe Acrobat format to the CJA Supervising Attorney, Wendy Holton, and Panel Administrator, Adina Poitra at MTX_CJASA@fd.org. If submitting by mail, send the application to: CJA Panel Selection Committee, ATTN CJA Panel Administrator, 104 Second Street South, Suite 301, Great Falls, MT 59401.  Applications will be considered at the next meeting of the CJA Committee.

Another function of the CJA Committee is to periodically review member attorneys to ensure that they continue to meet the qualifications set forth in the Plan. An attorney will be considered for removal if (s)he has not accepted an appointment for two years or, in the opinion of the Committee, no longer meets the standards for membership.

To learn more about the CJA Panel in this district, please refer to the memorandum Introduction To The Criminal Justice Act And The Montana Criminal Justice Act Panel.