FDAP is again accepting applications to both our criminal appellate panel and our dependency appellate panel.

FDAP is a non-profit corporation under contract with the judiciary to administer the appointment process and provide assistance to attorneys handling appointed cases in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District. FDAP is responsible for classifying all appointed attorneys and cases, and recommending to the court the appointment of the attorney in each case. FDAP is also responsible for evaluating attorneys on the panel on an ongoing basis, to decide what further cases, if any, the attorney will receive and whether the attorney shall remain on the panel. FDAP’s professional liability policy covers panel attorneys in cases where the appointment is made through FDAP.

In cases classified as “assisted,” a FDAP Staff Attorney reviews selected portions of the record and usually prepares a memorandum for the appointed panel attorney, noting possible appellate issues and providing guidance with legal research. The panel attorney then consults with the FDAP Staff Attorney throughout the course of the the case. The staff attorney reviews a draft of the opening brief and, as needed, other case filings. In other cases, experienced panel attorneys are assigned cases on an “independent” basis. In those cases, the appointed panel attorney is encouraged to seek advice from FDAP as needed. The appointed attorney in independent cases must send FDAP a copy of every document filed in the case, and must confer with FDAP before filing a no-merit brief.

In all cases, FDAP reviews the attorney’s claim for compensation and recommends payment. When admitted to the panel and assigned his or her first case, an attorney receives a more detailed explanation of the FDAP procedures.

Initial review of your application may not commence for weeks after we receive it, and a delay of two or three months until decision is not unusual. At times, depending on how full different segments of the panel are, we will maintain a waitlist of qualified applicants. In addition, applications of out-of-state attorneys can take extra time for review and approval because such applications require approval of a judiciary oversight committee. 

Note: While expertise in a relevant practice area (e.g. criminal law or dependency law) is an asset, it is neither sufficient, nor a prerequisite, for admission to the panel.

Whether FDAP admits an applicant to the panel depends upon his or her experience, the quality of the writing samples, and whether the applicant will make appointed appeals a substantial part of his or her practice. The importance of the quality of the writing samples cannot be overstated. Admission also depends upon current needs. FDAP must give consideration to the ratio of panel attorneys to caseload, concentrations of attorneys in certain counties and at certain levels of experience, the need for attorneys with certain areas of expertise, and the amount of assistance we can provide to panel attorneys.

Applicants should have exceptional writing and analytic skills, as well as a demonstrated interest in making appointed appeals a significant portion of their practice. While expertise in a relevant practice area (e.g. criminal law or dependency law) is an asset, it is neither sufficient, nor a prerequisite, for admission to the panel. The statewide Criteria for Placement on a Court of Appeal Indigent Defense Panel can be viewed here.

If accepted to the panel, it may be a while before the attorney’s name comes up in the rotation for cases. Admission to the First District appointment panel does not entitle an attorney to any particular number or kind of cases or to continue to be listed on any particular appointment panel within the First District. Since its inception in 1986 the First District Appellate Project has been under contract with the Court of Appeal to carry out the functions stated in rule 8.300, including subdivision (d): “[Evaluation] The court shall review and evaluate the performance of appointed counsel to determine whether counsel’s name should remain on the same appointment list, be placed on a different list, or be deleted.”

We very much look forward to working with you. We hope we share the same goals of providing the very best representation possible in indigent appeals, and ensuring that attorneys handling the appeals have available to them resources to augment their own diligent efforts.

The application form is to be completed as a fillable/saveable PDF. All application materials must be submitted electronically to panelapplications@fdap.org. (FDAP no longer accepts applications by mail.) To apply to the FDAP panel, complete these steps:

  1. Download and save to your own computer the fillable application and certification forms.
  2. Complete the application form by filling out the PDF electronically, saving your work periodically as you go and saving again when you have completed the application. If you email the document before saving any changes, FDAP will not receive those subsequent edits or additions.
  3. Complete the one-page Certification of Applicant. Print a paper copy of the certification, sign it in ink and scan the signed certification.
  4. Cover letters and resumes are not required, but may be helpful in some circumstances, e.g. to explain some unusual aspect of your experience that is not adequately covered by the application form.
  5. In a single email addressed to panelapplications@fdap.org attach:
    1. The PDF of the completed application.
    2. Two appellant’s opening briefs written by you. Submit other writing samples if no briefs are available. Writing samples should be either in the original word processor format or in a PDF that has been created from the word processor. Due to the large size of PDF files generated by scanning, scanned copies of writing samples are only accepted when other versions are not available.
    3. Opposing counsel’s brief in response to one of your writing samples.
    4. The signed and scanned copy of the one-page Certification of Applicant.
    5. The optional cover letter and/or resume, if any.