Bexar County Federal Courts


Volunteer for Federal Civil Appointments online

Every year indigent persons file numerous civil cases in federal court, alleging violations of constitutional and statutory rights. Occasionally attorneys are appointed to represent these claimants. Many of these cases are tried before a jury and present a unique opportunity to acquire trial experience while advocating for protection of valuable civil rights.

Currently, the Western District of Texas (the District) is soliciting attorney volunteers to represent indigent civil litigants in practice areas where the attorney volunteers are experienced and comfortable undertaking representation. Recently, the District implemented a new on-line application for volunteering for civil appointments. The appointment process is designed to respect an attorney volunteer’s interests, experience and availability. If you are interested in volunteering to represent an indigent person in a civil matter, please visit the District’s new on-line application at:

Because the new online form captures additional information than previous volunteer forms, you should fill out the new form even if you have filled out previous forms or otherwise expressed interest in these types of appointments in the past. You may ask at any time that your name be removed from the volunteer list temporarily or permanently. If you are appointed to a case outside your area of expertise you may ask that the appointment be vacated.

Applying to the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Panel in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division

If you are an attorney with federal criminal defense experience, if you are licensed to practice in the United States District Court, Western District of Texas (WDTX), if you have an office address in the counties served within the San Antonio Division, and you are interested in receiving federal court appointments, this article will guide you through the application procedure for the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Panel in the San Antonio Division.

You need to read the Amended CJA Plan for the San Antonio Division and fill out the 3-page application available on the website of the United States Courts, WDTX. They can also be found on the website of the Federal Public Defender (FPD) WDTX. The website addresses are:
(U.S. Courts WDTX)

The CJA Plan explains the CJA Policy adopted by this division, it sets forth the CJA Panel terms (most terms are renewed every 3 years), and the panel categories available to apply for with the qualification requirements for each category. The six categories are: (1) General Felony; (2) Complex-Case; (3) Appellate; (4) Non-Capital Habeas; (5) Auxiliary; and (6) Material Witness. The CJA Plan also includes information on the appointment process, the duties of appointed counsel, compensation, and San Antonio’s mentoring program unique to the WDTX.

Your completed application should be sent to the: CJA Panel Committee c/o Federal Public Defender, 727 E. Durango, Suite B-207, San Antonio, Texas 78206-1278, for consideration by the San Antonio CJA Panel Committee. The committee meets three times per year to review any pending applications, or reconsider prior applications. The committee will confirm that all applicants are in good standing in the State Bar of Texas and the U.S. District Court for the WDTX.  Also, the applicant must have demonstrated experience and knowledge of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, the United States Sentencing Guidelines, current federal law (case and statutory) governing sentencing, and the local rules of the Court. The most common reasons that someone is not placed on the panel are because they office outside the counties served within this division, or due to lack of experience.

Shortly after the committee meets, the applicant will be notified of the committee’s placement decision by the Committee Chair who is the Honorable United States Chief District Judge Fred Biery. If you are placed onto the CJA Panel, you must comply with annual Continuing Legal Education requirements. If you don’t qualify for the CJA Panel, you may be asked to resubmit an application once you gain more substantial experience, or you may be placed in the mentoring program. The mentoring program teams you with a veteran federal lawyer to allow you to gain valuable federal experience.

The current hourly CJA rate is $125 per hour for non-capital cases. This hourly rate covers in-court, out-of-court, and travel time. The current hourly CJA rate for capital cases is $178 per hour. Again, this rate covers in-court, out-of-court, and travel time.

Two useful information sources of support for the San Antonio CJA Panel attorneys, as well as other attorneys practicing in federal court, are the United States Courts’ website and the website of the FPD. The Court’s website provides information regarding the resources available to CJA Panel attorneys, such as investigators, expert services, and the payment forms. The Local Rules and the Administrative Polices and Procedure for Electronic filing can also be found there.

The FPD website offers the Fifth Circuit Blog, legal publications on subjects such as the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, federal sentencing guidelines, federal criminal appeals, and an index to our appellate brief bank and numerous legal links. If there are legal issues you would like to discuss with an Assistant Federal Public Defender, or if you need help with motions, the office of the FPD is available to assist. All CJA Panel attorneys are welcome to e-mail me at with their legal questions or requests. Additionally, the FPD sponsors annual local CLE seminars open to the CJA Panel. I send notification of training opportunities out by e-mail. Additionally, local and national trainings opportunities are posted on our website.

The Western District of Texas is fortunate to have an accessible and knowledgeable CJA Panel District Representative, John A. Convery. Mr. Convery is a well-known local criminal defense attorney and has been our district’s representative for many years. He can be reached by calling his office at 210-738-9060 or by e-mail at

We have a high-quality CJA Panel here in the San Antonio Division of the United States District Court that I am proud to assist. Good luck applying!

Wendy Rutherford Branham
Secretary to the Federal Public Defender
Western District of Texas
727 E. Durango Boulevard, Suite B-207
San Antonio, Texas 78206
210.472.6700 210.472.6767 (Fax)


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