The San Francisco Superior Court is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that indigent adults and juveniles facing prosecution receive the highest-quality representation possible whenever the Office of the Public Defender declares a conflict of interest or is otherwise unavailable.
Since the early 1970s, the Superior Court has collaborated closely with the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) to carry out this duty. Through the Indigent Defense Administration, attorneys are appointed by the Court from panels administered by the Court Appointment Program described in greater detail below.
Since 2003, BASF’s Indigent Defense Administration (IDA) has provided comprehensive oversight to the administration and billing associated with this program. In addition to making available highly-qualified counsel to be present each day in court, IDA also reviews and processes all bills from attorneys, investigators and experts.
- The Adult Criminal Court Appointment panel is comprised of several sub-panels: Misdemeanor, Regular Felonies, Serious Felonies, Homicide, Special Circumstances and Specialized Mental Health (including SVP) and Misdemeanor Appeals.
- The Juvenile Delinquency Court Appointment panel is also comprised of several sub-panels: Misdemeanor and Regular Felonies, Serious Felonies, and Homicide under Section 707 W&I.
Some attorneys serve on both the adult criminal and the juvenile delinquency panels. However, there are separate qualifications for each, and for the juvenile delinquency panel, applicants must also satisfy AB 703 requirements.
To join or renew your court appointment program panel membership, please visit the LRIS Membership page. Court appointment panel applications can be found under Step 2 on that page. Members of the Court Appointment Programs are also eligible for private referrals at no additional cost.
If you have questions or if you are a new lawyer, or looking to learn a new practice area, please contact the Director of Court Programs for information about working with one of our seasoned attorney panel members. Law students interested in externships or internships are always welcome as well.
Qualified attorneys are both efficient and knowledgeable, and therefore cost-effective for the City. Each case presents unique factual and legal issues, and clients are best served by attorneys who are compensated for reasonable services rendered. Panel attorneys are paid hourly, albeit at rates substantially less than in privately retained cases. The quid pro quo essential for attorneys to accept court-appointed rates is the opportunity to keep skills dynamic and to litigate issues at the forefront of the legal and forensic frontier. The involvement of a diverse and broad spectrum of private counsel, in turn, energizes and enhances the overall quality of practice in San Francisco. BASF and the Superior Court are committed to maintaining these diverse panels of highly qualified and committed attorneys working in these challenging areas of law. Compensation rates are set by the Superior Court and are reviewed annually.
The Application Process: Applications are submitted to BASF for initial review and then forwarded to the court for judicial approval. The application process includes a confidential peer reference review as well. Each panel has different qualifications consistent with the seriousness and complexity of the criminal charges. The qualifications are outlined on the application. BASF and the Superior Court recognize that often qualified attorneys do not meet each and every requirement for a particular panel and therefore, applicants are encouraged to advise BASF by letter of experience which is substantially equivalent to that required by the application pursuant to Rule 6 of the LRIS Rules.
The application requirements reflect the commitment of BASF and the Superior Court to zealous advocacy, ensuring due process for each and every criminal defendant and every minor facing juvenile delinquency proceedings.
Certified Criminal Law Specialization: Attorneys so qualified by the California State Bar fulfill the requirements for the misdemeanor and regular felony sub panels on the Criminal panel. Certification is not required for appointment, however, many of members of the adult criminal conflicts panel maintain this certification and are well-respected for the consistent level of zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients.