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United States of America v. Anthony Williams

December 2, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTHONY WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edwin G. Torres United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON CJA VOUCHER

On or about July 7, 2011, court-appointed defense counsel David J. Joffee ("Counsel") submitted a voucher application numbered FLS 10 3937 requesting $36,227.80 as final payment for attorney's fees and expenses pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act ("CJA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A.*fn1 Counsel also provided billing worksheets ("Worksheets") and a letter of explanation dated July 7, 2011 ("Letter") in support of his voucher application. Counsel represented Defendant Anthony Williams ("Defendant") in this case for approximately seven and a half months, from November 12, 2010 to June 27, 2011.

On September 28, 2011, we held a hearing on the voucher application. Counsel was present as was Michael Gilfarb, the Assistant United States Attorney who handled the case ("AUSA"), who appeared on Counsel's behalf to explain the extended and complex nature of the case. Based on our review of the voucher application and supporting documentation, the explanations of Counsel and the AUSA, and a review of the case as a whole, we hereby recommend that Counsel be awarded a total amount of $28,907.80 as fair compensation for representing Defendant in this case.

I. DISCUSSION

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 November 4, 2010 when the grand jury returned an eight-count Indictment against Defendant and thirteen other individuals for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance ("MDMA" or "ecstacy") in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, possession with the intent to distribute ecstacy, possession of firearms and ammunition, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. [D.E. 1].

The government alleged that between April 2009 and February 2010, Defendant was a mid-level drug supplier in an ecstacy distribution ring that spanned two counties and involved confidential informants ("CIs"), undercover buys, audio recordings, and four wiretaps. Individually he was charged with two counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute ecstasy (Counts 6 and 7) and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (Count 8). He faced a maximum penalty of twenty years' imprisonment on each of the conspiracy charges and a life sentence on the firearm possession charge. [D.E. 1 at 18].

Counsel was appointed to represent Defendant on November 12, 2010. [D.E. 21, 34]. At the September 28th hearing on the voucher application, both Counsel and the AUSA discussed the extended and complex nature of the case which stemmed in part from the large number of co-defendants in the case (fourteen), the large amount of discovery produced by the government, and Defendant's indecisiveness about whether or not to proceed to trial. Ultimately, Defendant opted for trial, and thus Counsel was required to review all the discovery in the case in order to properly prepare for trial.

Both lawyers informed the Court that the discovery produced by the government was voluminous. Counsel indicated in the Letter he submitted in support of the voucher application that the "voluminous discovery in this case consist[ed] of five DVD's, two CD's and a thumb drive containing 65,558 pages of documents." See Letter. This included transcripts of the four wiretaps, audio recordings, redacted documents relative to undercover buys with the CIs, and lab reports. The thumb drive alone held more than 65,000 pages of documents; the DVDs and CDs contained additional discovery. As both Counsel and the AUSA explained, even though Defendant was heard on only two of the wires, Counsel had to review all ...


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