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The federal Criminal Justice Act allows a defendant with little money to receive a defense attorney appointed by the court. Many of the cases in federal court have more than one defendant so each defendant receives a separate court appointed attorney.
There are downsides though to receiving a federal appointed attorney. First, a defendant cannot choose the lawyer. Some lawyers on the panel are much more qualified than others. Second, the court apponted attorneys often are time pressured by the court and limited in the amount of resources they can spend on the case. They have to apply to the court to receive money for investigation after a very low minimum amount has been made.
Finally, in the United States Southern District, the panel is selected by the judges of the district. This varies from other districts where the panel is administered by federal criminal defense attorneys. The CJA attorneys in the Southern District at times may feel pressure to please the judges more than their clients. Since the panel selection process is secret, a judge may have a defendant removed for almost any reason and without explanation.
Attorney Russell Babcock learned federal law by being on the panel for more than twenty years. But now, the law firm is one of the few in the city that remains completely free of panel membership. Many criminal lawyers in San Diego accept both federal appointments through the CJA panel and private clients.
The philosophy of our firm is to always serve the client, not the judiciary. Our constitutional obligations are to fight as hard as we can for every client. Not all judges like this approach to the practice of the law, but the most respected judges in San Diego respect us for our high ethics, which always include zealous representations of a client.
Your best choice as a defendant or for your family member is to hire a private attorney who works for you and does not have to answer in any way to the court. If you are unable to afford a private attorney, your next choice is to try to establish the best rapport you can with your court appointed attorney keeping in mind how busy they may be and the atmosphere in which they must operate. Do not hire an attorney who is unqualified for too little money because they will only harm your case.
At our office we limit the number of cases we work on to best serve you. We always have at least two attorneys available on call to serve you and we work with a team approach. Finally, we are completely independent and work only for you. We enjoy giving the extra time and attention to the cases in our law firm. That is what has shaped our practice, helped us to be so successful in our results, and distinguished us from the many other criminal defense lawyers in San Diego.