The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edwin G. Torres United States Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CJA VOUCHER
On or about March 29, 2011, court-appointed defense counsel Terence Lenamon ("Counsel") submitted a voucher application numbered FLS 10 3338 requesting $87,562.50 as final payment for attorney's fees pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act ("CJA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. [D.E. 49].*fn1 Counsel also provided a letter entitled "Overview of Complex Case" ("Letter Overview") in which he outlined the nature of the case and his representation of Defendant Anson Joachin ("Defendant") to support his claim for compensation in excess of the CJA statutory maximum. In addition, Counsel filed a Supplemental Information Statement and time sheets to document the work performed in the case. [D.E. 206-1 ("Supplement")].
On September 1, 2011, we held a hearing on the voucher application. Counsel described the work performed in the case and provided additional documentation to support his voucher application. Based on our review of the voucher application, the supplemental materials, Counsel's explanations, and our review of the case as a whole, we hereby recommend that Counsel be awarded a total amount of $67,306.50 as fair compensation for representing Defendant in this case.
A. Applicable Standard Under the Criminal Justice Act*fn2 The CJA authorizes the appointment of counsel to represent indigent defendants charged with federal offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. At the conclusion of a CJA representation, the court shall compensate the appointed attorney for "time expended in court," "time reasonably expended out of court," and "expenses reasonably incurred."
18 U.S.C. § 3006A(d)(1). The district court, as the body empowered to "fix" CJA-appointed counsel's compensation, has the statutory authority and discretion to determine what is a reasonable expense or a reasonable use of billable time. See 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(d)(5); United States v. Rodriguez, 833 F.2d 1536, 1537-38 (11th Cir. 1987). Compensation is capped at $9,700.00, see Guidelines § 230.23.20(a), but a court may award a fee in excess of that amount by certifying that the case involved "extended or complex representation" and that the excess amount is "necessary to provide fair compensation" to appointed counsel. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3006A(d)(2) & (3); Guidelines §§ 230.23.40(b) & (c).
A case may be considered "complex" if the legal or factual issues in a case are unusual, thus requiring the expenditure of more time, skill and effort by the lawyer than would normally be required in an average case. See Guidelines § 230.23.40(b). A case may be considered "extended" if more time is reasonably required for total processing than the average case, including pre-trial and post-trial hearings. Id.
B. Whether the Case was "Extended" or "Complex"
In order to approve compensation in excess of the case compensation maximum, we first must find that the representation was either complex or extended. We find this case was complex for the reasons set forth below.
1. Nature and Number of Charges
First, the very nature and number of charges involved in this case required Counsel to expend more time, skill, and effort than normally required in an average case.
The case commenced on March 25, 2010 when the grand jury returned a ten-count Indictment against Defendant and three other individuals for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and false statements. [D.E. 3]. Defendant, the lead defendant in the case, was charged with nine counts including conspiracy. Thereafter the Indictment was superceded twice, on April 22, 2010 [D.E. 10] and again on July 29, 2010 [D.E. 65]. The Second Superceding Indictment included one additional defendant and added three charges against Defendant.
The government alleged that the co-defendants in this case were involved in a mortgage fraud conspiracy scheme to unlawfully enrich themselves by (a) recruiting straw buyers to purchase residential properties throughout the State of Florida and (b) submitting false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and related documents to lending institutions, thereby inducing the lending institutions to make mortgage loans to the straw buyers for the purchase of the residential properties. According to the government, Defendant identified residential properties in the state for purchase; recruited straw buyers who lent their identities and credit histories for money to further the fraudulent purchase of the identified properties; used the names of the straw buyers on fraudulent mortgage applications even though Defendant knew the alleged borrowers had no financial interest or intent to be the true borrowers/owners or occupants of the properties; and submitted the false and fraudulent mortgage applications to various mortgage lenders in order to fraudulently procure mortgage financing for the straw buyers. The aggregate amount of the loans procured fraudulently by the co-defendants and others from the mortgage lenders was alleged to have exceeded $5,000,000.00.
Defendant individually was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, and five counts of wire fraud. He faced a maximum sentence of twenty (20) years' imprisonment on each count. According to Counsel, the government ...