In 1964, the CJA was enacted to establish a comprehensive system for appointing and compensating lawyers to represent defendants financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. The CJA authorized reimbursement of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses and payment of expert and investigative services necessary for an adequate defense. Federal defender organizations, together with the more than 10,000 private "panel attorneys" who accept CJA assignments annually, represent the vast majority of individuals who are prosecuted in our nation's federal courts.
The Judicial Conference of the United States promulgates policies and guidelines for the administration of the CJA, formulates legislative recommendations to the Congress, and approves funding requests and spending plans for the defender program as a whole and, through its standing Committee on Defender Services, budgets and grants for each defender organization. The policies and procedures of the Judicial Conference for the operation of the CJA are set forth in its Guidelines for Administering the CJA and Related Statutes.