The word is spreading fast among South Florida’s criminal defense lawyers. In a last minute legislative maneuver, the Florida legislature passed SB 1960, a bill which takes effect July 1, 2012. The bill changes the way court appointed attorneys are paid in Florida-again-by creating two registries: a “general registry,” and a “limited registry.” If you are an attorney that is currently on a court-appointment wheel, you may soon be getting an e-mail from your judicial circuit administrator asking you if you want to be listed on the general registry, or the limited registry. According to the language of SB 1960, attorneys on the limited registry will be limited to a statutory cap on their attorney’s fees. The caps, as outlined in soon-to-be-effective section 27.5304, entitled “Private court-appointed counsel; compensation,” provides the following caps on fees:
(1) For misdemeanors and juveniles represented at the trial level: $1,000
(2) For noncapital, nonlife felonies represented at the trial level: $2,500.
(3) For life felonies represented at the trial level: $3,000
(4) For capital cases represented at the trial level: $15,000. The Bill defines a “capital case” as “any offense for which the potential sentence is death and the 280 state has not waived seeking the death penalty.”
(5) For representation on appeal: $2,000.
See SB 1960, section 27.5304(5). Attorneys will only be permitted to exceed the statutory cap upon the filing, and granting, of a motion. See SB 1960, section 27.5304(12).
A word of caution to criminal defense attorneys who opt to be listed on the “general registry:” pursuant to SB 1960, section 27.40, if your circuit creates a “limited registry,” the court will have to make appointments from the “limited registry” first, and then only from the “general registry” if there are “no attorneys available to accept the appointment on the limited registry.” See SB 1960, section 27.40(3).
If you are an attorney who takes appointments to criminal cases, you might want to take a few moments and read the bill in its entirety.