The Criminal Justice Act (CJA) was enacted to fulfill the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright. For many years the dedicated lawyers (panel attorneys) appointed to represent indigent defendants charged with federal crimes were compensated for their work with rates so low the rates did not even cover overhead costs.
The issue of indigent defense funding got an important boost in 2001 when the House and Senate conferees on the FY 2002 Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary appropriations bills provided an increase in CJA panel attorney rates to $90 per hour in-court and out-of-court effective May, 2002. In the 106th Congress, hourly rates were increased to $75 in-court and $55 out-of-court, which was the most significant improvement in these rates since 1984. When the ABA adopted policy on this issue in 1998, CJA panel attorney hourly rates were $65 per hour in-court and $45 per hour out-of-court. The $90 hourly flat rate is a significant step towards the eventual goal of providing the full-authorized level of $113 per hour for these CJA rates.