ACLU claims that awarding of fees to court-appointed attorneys in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is arbitrary and unchallengeable.Richmond, VA – The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments tomorrow in a case seeking a fair compensation process for lawyers representing indigent defendants in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit involves two court-appointed attorneys whose fees in a death penalty case were cut drastically and without any explanation from the court.
“If the Fourth Circuit does not properly compensate court-appointed attorneys, then indigent clients may not have adequate legal representation, which means they may not get a complete and fair hearing of their case,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “If there is one thing just about everyone in this county can agree on, it is the right of every single person, regardless of income, to a fair and just legal proceeding.”
In Rosenfield v. Wilkins, attorneys Steven Rosenfield and Ed Wayland of Charlottesville claim that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals lacks proper rules for the awarding of fees to court-appointed attorneys and has no process for challenging a decision to cut fees. Rosenfield and Wayland had their fees cut by 70% after representing Bobby Swisher in his challenge to his capital murder conviction.
Under the Federal Criminal Justice Act, federal courts of appeals appoint lawyers for indigent capital defendants who are appealing a denial of habeas corpus. Each circuit must have a plan that outlines how attorneys are appointed and compensated. Under the Fourth Circuit’s plan, attorneys submit a payment voucher to the clerk of the court at the end of the case. The voucher is reviewed by the Chief Judge, who has the final say as to the amount of reimbursement. However, the plan contains no guidelines for the Chief Judge to follow and no requirement that a reason be given when fees are cut. Moreover, there is no avenue for appeal of the Chief Judge’s final decision.
Rosenfield and Wilkins are represented by ACLU cooperating attorney Victor M. Glasberg of Glasberg & Associates in Alexandria, and Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Virginia.
Case: Rosenfield v. Wilkins When: Friday, February 1, 2008, 8:30 a.m. (first on the docket) Where:Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Bank St. Entrance, Courtroom 201 (Green Carpet) Attorney for the ACLU of Virginia:Victor M. Glasberg, Esq.
Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, 804-644-8022