CJA Attorney FAQs

  • What is the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel?

    The panel consists of private attorneys who are eligible and willing to be appointed to provide representation to persons financially unable to retain adequate representation. Panels exist in Des Moines, Davenport, and Council Bluffs for the Southern District of Iowa.

  • What kind of assistance can the Clerk’s office offer CJA attorneys?

    As part of its mission, the Clerk’s Office assists CJA attorneys in providing effective representation to their clients. Panel attorneys are invited to consult with the Federal Public Defender on any aspect of a CJA case. The Federal Public Defender sponsors seminars throughout the year to discuss defense issues.

  • How can I become a member of the CJA Panel?

    Contact the Federal Public Defender's Office in Des Moines, Traci Truitt at (515) 309-9641, for an application. Acceptance for panel representation is determined by the CJA Panel Committee which meets approximately every 6 months.

  • How many hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) do I need to have each year in order to remain on the CJA Panel?

    Six (6) federal CLE credit hours are required each year.

  • Where can I get my CLE hours that are required?

    The Federal Public Defender in Des Moines has two 1-day seminars (spring and fall) every year. Each 1-day seminar will fulfill the 6 federal CLE credit hours needed to remain on the CJA Panel. They also put on luncheon seminars (which usually fulfill 1 hour of CLE), as well as traveling seminars. Those seminars vary in CLE hours depending on the seminar.

  • If I am representing a witness, who is later indicted, am I automatically appointed as their attorney?


  • How do I get paid after a case is closed?

    Follow these steps:
    •    Download the CJA 20 Excel Spreadsheet and voucher, available at CJA Forms.  A CJA 20 Excel Setup and Instruction Guide is also available.
    •    Attach any supporting documentation for expenses over $50 that are listed on the CJA 20 and spreadsheet;
    •    If necessary, attach an “over-the-limit” letter to the presiding judge explaining the necessity of exceeding the case maximum;
    •    If necessary, attach a letter to the presiding judge explaining why the case is being billed over 45 days after the case has concluded;
    •    Email the CJA 20 spreadsheet and voucher, plus any supporting documentation to IASD_CJAvouchers@iasd.uscourts.gov ;
    •    If the forms cannot be submitted electronically, a hard copy may be mailed to:

    CJA Vouchers
    123 East Walnut St., Room 300
    Des Moines, IA, 50309

  • Can I bill for a law student or a paralegal working at my law firm?

    Yes. His/her time must be entered under “other expenses”and can only be for the actual amount paid to the law student or paralegal. An itemization of his/her time and work performed must also accompany the CJA 20.

  • Can an attorney charge for preparing a CJA voucher?


  • I ordered a transcript of the sentencing hearing of my client and the court reporter submitted an invoice to me. Shall I pay the court reporter and claim it on the CJA 20?

    No. The court reporter should make the claim on a CJA 24. See Attachment 9 CJA Voucher Workbook for a CJA 24 form and instructions on how to complete it.

  • Do you have a sheet with all the mileage, attorney fees change dates, as well as interpreters costs and case maximums?

    Yes. Please see Pages 2 - 5, CJA Voucher Workbook.

  • What is the current mileage reimbursement rate?

    See Page 3. CJA Voucher Workbook

  • A case is returned for re-sentencing. Can time and expenses be included on the original criminal case voucher?

    No. This is a new appointment and all time and expenses must be claimed on a new CJA 20 voucher.

  • I have a case that has been on-going for over a year and my client still hasn't been sentenced. I would like to get paid for my services so far. Can I submit my voucher for payment even if the case isn't finished yet?

    Yes. Write a letter to the judge requesting interim payment and send the letter with the CJA 20 voucher to:
    CJA Vouchers
    123 E. Walnut St., Room 300
    Des Moines, IA 50309

    After it is reviewed, it will be submitted to the judge along with your CJA 20 voucher for approval.

  • My claim is more than $9,700 in a criminal case. Do I need approval on my CJA 20 voucher if my compensation is over the case maximum allowed?

    Yes. If the total compensation for attorneys who represented the same defendant is greater than $9,700 for work performed on or after January 1, 2010 (or the case maximum), include a letter of explanation to the presiding judge explaining why the bill went over the case maximum. Once the voucher has been reviewed by the Panel Administrator for accuracy, the voucher will be sent to the presiding judge along with the letter of explanation. If the voucher is approved, that judge will send a letter to the Eighth Circuit for their approval. Once the Eighth Circuit has approved the voucher, it will be sent back to Des Moines for final processing.

  • When is it necessary to budget for an extraordinary case?

    When it is possible that the case will exceed $30,000 or 300 hours of attorney time.

  • How can I obtain a CJA 20 form for a case I was appointed to?

    Download the CJA20 Excel spreadsheet and voucher from CJA 20 Excel Spreadsheet and Voucher, it will automatically generate a CJA 20 with worksheets.

    If the Excel Spreadsheet is not used, a form CJA 20 can be downloaded here and attached to the bill.

    Submit the bill in pdf format via e-mail with all attachments to the CJA mailbox at: IASD_CJAvouchers@iasd.uscourts.gov

  • Once I have submitted my voucher for payment to the Clerk’s Office, what is the process my voucher goes through before payment is made?

    Please see Attachment 4. CJA Voucher Workbook

  • Once I have submitted my CJA 20 voucher for payment, how long will it take for me to receive my money?

    Typically, it takes approximately 10-30 days to process a voucher (assuming there are no problems with the voucher and depending on how long each judge may hold the voucher before signing it to authorize payment).

  • What needs to be attached to a CJA 21 voucher for claims for services?

    1.  An itemized statement of all services for which reimbursement is claimed, including an explanation of the fee arrangement (i.e. hourly rate, per diem rate, etc.), statement as to the type of, dates of, and time expended for, and the services provided. Interpreters should also attach the 'Interpreter Worksheet’. (See Attachment 7,  at CJA Voucher Workbook)
    2.  Receipts for any expenses in excess of $50.
    3.  A copy of the Order allowing payment, if applicable.

  • What happens if, upon your review of my CJA 20 voucher, you discover I have made a mistake?

    If the voucher contains a mistake that is equal to one hour or less, we will automatically correct the problem without notifying you. However, if there is more than an hour discrepancy, we will return the CJA 20 voucher to you for correction.

  • What happens if I haven't submitted all the proper documentation upon your review of my CJA 20 voucher?

    We will either hold the CJA 20 and notify you to request any missing documentation, or we will return the CJA 20 to you with instructions as to what is needed in order to submit the CJA 20 for payment.

  • What happens if my bill isn't in the format you have requested? (Not in PDF or is in quarter hours rather than in tenths.)

    We will return the voucher for correction.

  • My voucher and worksheets contain quarter hours (3.25, 6.75 etc.). Is this a problem?

    Yes. Claims can only be processed if reported in tenths of an hour (3.3, 6.8 etc.).

  • I had to withdraw from a case due to conflict. I understand multiple attorneys have been appointed after me. Can I submit my voucher for payment, even though the case isn't finished yet?

    Yes, but in the Southern District of Iowa, we hold all vouchers submitted until the case is done. Once concluded if the sum of all vouchers goes over the case maximum allowed, the last attorney must submit an over-the-limit letter to the presiding Judge to be submitted with their CJA 20 voucher. See page 8 CJA Voucher Workbook. To request payment before the case is concluded, a letter requesting interim payment should accompany the CJA 20 voucher.

  • I finished a case last year and I just realized that I never submitted my claim. May I do it now?

    Yes, but a separate  memorandum must be submitted explaining why the voucher is being submitted more than 45 days after the completion of the case.

  • My client needs clothes, a haircut, and personal items so he/she is presentable when appearing in court. I have already purchased them and would like to be reimbursed. Can I claim these as expenses on my voucher?

    No. These items are personal in nature and are not reimbursable under the Criminal Justice Act. However, if a receipt is submitted, it is at the Judge's discretion to pay.

  • Can a CJA panel attorney use the Federal Public Defender's interpreters or investigators?

    No. You must seek out your own interpreter or investigator. However, the FPD has a database of experts and can provide you with that information.

  • I needed an interpreter present throughout all my meetings with my client and he submitted an invoice to me. Shall I pay the interpreter and claim it on my CJA 20?

    NO!! Interpreters and all other expert services (e.g. psychologists, investigators, fingerprint analysts, etc.) are to be claimed on a CJA 21.

  • What is the current interpreter rate?

    See Page 2 for interpreter rates at CJA Voucher Workbook.

  • I have obtained the services of an investigator or expert and the fees are more than $800. What should I do?

    Any claim for investigators, interpreters or other experts, that is more than $800, requires the approval of the court before the claim may be processed. In the Southern District of Iowa,  an ex-parte motion must be filed requesting advanced authorization. If the claim is for more than $2,400, then circuit approval is needed.