Lawyers in Mississippi must attend 12 hours of Continuing Legal Education, one of which must be in the area of legal ethics. Most lawyers attend several conferences a year, and have no problem meeting and exceeding this requirement. I just returned from Biloxi, Mississippi, where I attended the 2010 CJA Panel Attorney Training Seminar, which was organized by the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Mississippi. And I’m blogging to brag on the the Federal Public Defender’s office and tell you it was an excellent program.
What is the Federal Public Defender?
The Federal Public Defender is a government office that provides criminal defense for indigent clients (people that can prove to the federal judge that they do not have the money for a lawyer). This office is authorized and funded pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, (“CJA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3006 et seq. The caseload ranges from petty offenses to the defense of complex felony prosecutions. Mississippi has had a Federal Public Defender office since 2002, led by the Federal Public Defender Dennis Joiner, and currently it is made up of nine excellent attorneys stationed in Jackson, Gulfport, and Oxford to provide statewide coverage.
What is the CJA Panel?
The CJA Panel is a group of private attorneys that accept appointments from the federal courts to defend indigent clients when the Federal Public Defender cannot do it due to a conflict or some other reason. Not just any lawyer can be on the panel. To be accepted, a lawyer must be a member in good standing of the district court trial bar and must have experience with, and knowledge of, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. And they must attend additional training specific to federal criminal defense.
This week’s training covered the following topics:
- Sentencing Updates / Crack v. Powder Cocaine – George Lucas, Senior Litigator, Federal Public Defender’s Office
- Offender Workforce Development – Doug Burris, Chief U.S. Probation Officer, Eastern Missouri
- Obtaining Bond in Immigration Cases – Barry L. Frager, The Frager Law Firm, Memphis, TN
- Computer Crimes – Ellen Allred, Assistant Federal Public Defender
- Tools for Sentencing Mitigation – Kevin Payne, Assistant Federal Public Defender and Dean Applegate, Investigator
- Affirmative Uses of the Rules of Evidence – Omodare Jupiter, Assistant Federal Public Defender
- Professionalism: The Road Begins Where You Are – Greg Park, Assistant Federal Public Defender
These sessions are designed to provide CJA attorneys with the up-to-date knowledge they need to effectively represent you when you are charged with a federal crime. If you find yourself in this position, and you cannot afford a federal criminal defense attorney, you’ll be in good hands. If you can afford a federal criminal defense attorney, I know where you can find one. 601-991-1099.