February 2024 Panel Bulletin

Read on for important information about student loan forgiveness for panel attorneys, claim tips, updating templates with FDAP’s current address, registration for FDAP’s annual training seminar, upcoming trainings, and panel victories.

Student Loan Forgiveness for Panel Attorneys?

The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program has implemented new rules about who qualifies for federal student loan forgiveness. Previously, only full-time employees for a non-profit or government agency qualified.  Under the new regulations, independent contractors working in a full-time capacity may qualify in certain situations. For more information on the new rule, visit the PSLF information on qualifying employment and expand the FAQ “Am I eligible for PSLF if I’m a contractor?”

In light of the new regulations, the JCC is willing to certify the number of claimed hours that a panel attorney has billed in a given year.  Attached is a JCC announcement about the application process for panel attorneys to get their hours certified by the JCC.  The announcement includes an email address that panel attorneys should utilize when seeking to have their hours certified by the JCC.  Once a panel attorney receives their certification of hours back from the JCC, it will be up to the individual panel attorney to submit their application for loan forgiveness with PSLF.

Importantly, neither the JCC nor the projects feel qualified to state whether panel attorneys will qualify for loan forgiveness under the new PSLF guidelines.  The JCC is willing to certify hours, but the ultimate determination about whether a panel attorney qualifies for forgiveness will be left to the PSLF program and the US Department of Education.

The projects have also drafted a statement that describes the unique panel/project state contractor relationship for representation of indigent appellants in the Court Appointed Counsel system. We hope that it will provide panel attorneys a useful description of panel work and the panel system that can be submitted with the PSLF application.

The projects hope that these changes mean that borrowers with federally-managed loans may obtain loan forgiveness. Please share your success stories with us.

Claims Tips: Compensation Guidelines, Unbriefed Issues, & Timekeeping Records

Our goal is that panel attorneys are fairly compensated for all of their work, and we have a couple of tips for attorneys to ensure that happens.

First, adequately explain all unbriefed issues.  A general or cursory explanation of an issue you researched and rejected (ex., “researched a fines/fees issue”) is not sufficient, and you will be asked for more details or your claim will be cut if the explanation does not support a compensation recommendation.  Also, keep in mind that unbriefed issues descriptions are transmitted to the JCC with all final compensation claim recommendations; take care not to reveal adverse consequences or confidential client communications.

Second, the compensation guidelines are neither a floor nor a ceiling.  In many situations, the actual reasonable and necessary time required for a task is either higher or lower than the guidelines.  FDAP regularly makes above-guidelines compensation recommendations, but needs to provide a defensible explanation of the recommendation.  We sometimes even make below guidelines recommendations. Please claim all of the time you reasonably and necessarily worked on a case, and explain why the time spent exceeded the guidelines.

Finally, attorneys must keep contemporaneous time records and claim time actually worked (not simply claim to the guidelines).  FDAP, the Judicial Council, AIDOAC, or even the Court could ask to review your time logs.  In the past, when attorneys were unable to present accurate time logs, there were serious financial consequences.

See the Statewide Claims Manual for this information and the answers to nearly every single other claims question.

We realize getting paid is essential to the panel!  Contact the consulting attorney with any claims related questions.

Update Your Templates With FDAP’s Current Address

FDAP still gets plenty of documents with a proof of service listing FDAP’s old address. Though we receive the documents through Truefiling, clients could see the address on a proof of service and write to FDAP’s old address. Please update your templates to reflect FDAP’s current address: 1212 Broadway, Suite 1200, Oakland, CA 94612.

Upcoming Trainings

Registration open for FDAP’s In-Person Annual Training Seminar

Join us on Friday April 26, 2024 at beautiful Preservation Park in Oakland for our in-person training event. We will have criminal and dependency breakout sessions, a keynote speaker, lunch, and the opportunity to connect with your colleagues. Approximately 5 hours of MCLE credit, including appellate and criminal specialization, will be provided. Until April 1, 2024, registration is only open to FDAP panel members.

Please note the training will not be recorded or live streamed. Register here.

Santa Clara Law Review, Center for Social Justice and Public Service, & the Northern California Innocence Project
Santa Clara Law Racial Justice Symposium
March 1, 2024, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Join the Santa Clara Law Review, Center for Social Justice and Public Service, and the Northern California Innocence Project at the Santa Clara Law Racial Justice Symposium. Experts, researchers, litigators, and judges will cover topics including the importance of historical narratives that have fueled racial disparities, biases, and discriminatory language in our communities, litigation strategies, the impact of implicit biases in our criminal legal system, and the reach of remedies to confront racism in the spirit of the RJA. The founders and staff of the Racial Justice Clinic at the University of San Francisco will provide a lunchtime keynote aimed to inspire confidence that California’s Racial Justice Act will achieve the goals our state legislature and Assembly member Kalra sought to address. CLE credits such as elimination of bias will be available! RSVP here.

California Appellate Defense Counsel
Annual Conference and Seminar
March 22-23, 2024

Registration is now open for CADC’s Annual Conference and Seminar March 22-23, 2024 which will be held virtually again this year. The two-day conference will be filled with informative and inspiring presentations, including the Project Directors Roundtable, a report from CADC’s lobbyist and criminal and dependency break-out sessions, providing a total of up to 9 hours of MCLE credit. For more information and to register, please visit CADC’s website.

Panel Victories

Below is a noteworthy First District victory from this past month. This victory and many more can be found on the Panel Victories page of FDAP’s Website.

A166996 – [Unpublished Opinion | Panel Attorney Eric Larson] The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in in finding the prior strike and serious felony allegations true because appellant’s prior conviction for battery with serious bodily injury in violation of PC 243(d) did not qualify as a serious or violent felony under California law because it did not require a finding that appellant inflicted great bodily injury.