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About the Federal Public Defender's Office

The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Pennsylvania was created in 1974 by the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 (18 U.S.C., sec. 3006A). In accordance with that law, a federal district court (the trial courts of the federal judicial system) may establish a defender organization if at least two hundred persons in the district annually require the appointment of counsel.

The Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Pennsylvania represents financially qualified defendants before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Representation includes counsel and investigative, expert, and other services necessary for an adequate defense.

The Office consists of the Federal Public Defender, with Assistant Federal Public Defenders and support staff (investigators, research and writing specialists, and administrative support) as hired by the Defender under attorney limits from the Court of Appeals and budgetary limits from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. They handle caseloads composed of federal misdemeanors, felonies, parole and probation violations, habeas corpus, grand jury representation, direct appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and petitions for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal Public Defenders are appointed to a four-year term by the presiding United States Court of Appeals. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is the presiding Court of Appeals for federal courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands. The Federal Public Defender appoints as many attorneys as the U.S. Court of Appeals approves (which is based primarily on the number of prosecutions in a given District) and other personnel as approved by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.


This page was last updated on August 29, 2003.