The hourly pay rates for lawyers who represent indigent defendants in federal criminal cases, which were temporarily reduced last year, have been restored, effective March 1, 2014. In an emergency move last August, the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States reduced the rates for court-appointed panel attorneys by $15 an hour. The Committee described the step as "undesirable," but "necessary to avoid permanent damage to the federal defender program."
At a February 10 meeting, the Executive Committee adopted final financial plans for fiscal year 2014 for the four principal federal Judiciary spending accounts. The plans are based on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, which provides full-year funding for the federal government, including a 5.1 percent ($316 million) increase in discretionary funding for the Judiciary. The Judiciary's final fiscal year 2014 discretionary appropriations—totaling $6.516 billion—are about the same as the Judiciary's 2013 funding level prior to sequestration. In fact, if sequestration is excluded, overall Judiciary funding has been relatively flat since FY 2010.
In addition to restoring the previous hourly panel attorney rates, the FY 2014 spending plan for the Defender Services account provides sufficient funding to pay all FY 2014 panel attorney vouchers without deferring any payments into FY 2015. The hourly rates also include a one-percent increase, consistent with the one percent Employment Cost Index increase for all federal employees. As a result, for work performed on or after March 1, 2014, hourly panel attorney rates will increase to $126 for non-capital representations and $180 for capital representations.