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Frequently asked questions:

FAQs for Attorneys   |   FAQs for Parties

FAQ for Attorneys

Q: As an ADI panel attorney, where can I find written guidance on handling appointed appeals and writs in California reviewing courts?

A: A great place to find (and usually the first place to look for) the answer to a question is ADI's California Criminal Appellate Practice Manual, which has extensive practical, procedural, and substantive information. It is an excellent resource for getting an overview, finding answers to many legal questions, and identifying major authorities from which to begin research. Its nine PDF chapters cover:

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Basic Information (life on the panel, counsel’s responsibilities, client relationships)
Chapter 2 - Appealability (What can be appealed and how to start an appeal)
Chapter 3 - Prebriefing Responsibilities (record completion, extensions, bail on appeal)
Chapter 4 - Issue Spotting
Chapter 5 - Briefing
Chapter 6 - Oral Argument
Chapter 7 - Decisions & Later
Chapter 8 - State Writs
Chapter 9 - Federal Habeas Corpus

ADI's website and those of other appellate projects, as well as the judicial website, have considerable resources for counsel. It is not possible to enumerate all of those here, but counsel are invited to browse these websites and note those parts most relevant to their present concern. The websites are searchable, and ADI also maintains a multi-project Topical Index for ease of research. We especially call attention to our Forms and Samples and Filing Rules (PDF) pages, two of the most often used and most practical.

Counsel must always consult official rules and forms:

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Q: Where can I find answers to my questions about compensation claims?

A: The "Claims" drop-down menu on the ADI website has links to a number of claims-related forms; e-claim information; state guidelines, rates, and written policies; ADI tips and reminders, etc.

ADI's Compensation Claim Manual (PDF) describes a large variety of judicial policies on claims, as interpreted and applied by the projects.

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Q: Whom should I contact about administrative questions concerning a particular case, such as appointment or claim information?

A: The general contacts are Senior Staff Attorneys Dave Rankin and Lynelle Hee. They can either answer your question or put you in touch with the responsible person.

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Q: Whom should I contact for help with substantive issues or procedural matters in a specific case?

A: Every appointed case, whether assisted or independent, will have an assigned staff attorney. That person will be available to discuss your questions and will be happy to serve as a sounding board or to brainstorm with you.

A reasonable amount of consultation with the project is compensable and strongly recommended. See To Call or Not To Call (PDF), page 3. To make the most of this consultation, it is usually helpful to be familiar with the record and to have done preliminary research before contacting the staff attorney.

In assisted cases, the staff attorney will want to see one or more drafts before filing. Please clarify the staff attorney's expectations at an early stage.

For help with unapppointed cases (those still in the trial court; those awaiting selection of appellate counsel; those dismissed before appointment of counsel because of non-appealability, untimeliness, failure to submit a request for counsel, etc.), a staff "attorney of the day" is available to provide help. Call (619) 696-0282 and ask the receptionist for the dependency or criminal attorney of the day.

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Q: When is it mandatory (or strongly advisable) for a panel attorney to consult the staff attorney?

A: ADI's policy is the staff attorney must always be contacted when:

  • considering a no-merit (Wende-Sade C.) brief;
  • abandoning an appeal;
  • raising an ineffective assistance of counsel claim;
  • undertaking an off-record investigation or filing a writ petition;
  • filing a supplemental brief, except at the request of the court or in response to a new authority not available at the time of the opening brief;
  • consenting to a substitution of counsel (appointed or retained);
  • (for counsel for a dependency minor) considering taking a different position on appeal from that trial counsel/guardian ad litem took;
  • immediately on becoming aware of the possibility of legal action against counsel or ADI – e.g., a claim of malpractice or ineffective assistance of appellate counsel;
  • immediately on becoming aware of any potential conflict of interest, present or future; any State Bar action affecting ability to practice law (including discipline or suspension for failure to pay dues or meet MCLE requirements); or other factor that could interfere with counsel's panel membership or continued representation in a given case.

The preapproval of the executive director is required in order to receive compensation for filing a certiorari petition in the United States Supreme Court or hiring an expert (other than modest translation fees). Advise the staff attorney when you are considering such action and ask him or her to convey your request to the executive director.

Common sense dictates that consultation should occur:

  • before incurring unusual expenditures, such as non-local travel to visit a client, overnight stays, or experts;
  • when dealing with sensitive matters such as potential adverse consequences, ethical dilemmas, judicial conflicts of interest, threatening or exceptionally demanding clients or family members, difficulties in client communication, substitution of counsel, strong disagreements with trial counsel, etc.;
  • when unsure about ADI or court policy.

These lists are not, and cannot be, exhaustive. They do illustrate the types of situations in which consultation is required or strongly advisable. Needless to say, counsel should err on the safe side and contact ADI when in doubt. Often in these matters the staff attorney will need to consult the executive director, as well.

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Q: What recourse do I have if the staff attorney and I cannot reach agreement on a matter or I want to make a confidential complaint or inquiry?

A: Chapter 1, §1.2 of the ADI California Criminal Appellate Practice Manual summarizes the relationship between the panel attorney and ADI and provides brief guidance on dealing with differences of opinion.

See Elaine Alexander's article, Disagreements with Staff Attorneys About Legal Judgments (PDF).

For assistance in handling a particular disagreement with the assigned staff attorney, you may contact the ADI executive director or one of the panel ombudsmen: Neil Auwarter, nfa@adi-sandiego.com, or (619) 696-0284, ext. 27, or Cindi Mishkin, cbm@adi-sandiego.com or (619) 696-0284, ext. 55. Neil and Cindi are also available to assist attorneys who have gripes, seek guidance with a problem, have questions, or for other reasons need special advice.

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Q: How can I find out my standing on the ADI panel or obtain a reference from ADI?

A: Only the executive director is authorized to discuss an attorney's status on the ADI panel. Panel attorneys may contact Elaine Alexander directly or ask a panel ombudsman to relay the request to her.

Likewise, a panel attorney wishing to use ADI as a reference should contact the executive director, not a staff attorney.

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*The material found on this Web site is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered to be legal advice and is not guaranteed to be complete or up to date. Use of this Web site is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between the user and Appellate Defenders, Inc. (ADI) or any of the firm's attorneys. Readers should not rely upon or act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. See full disclaimer.