Assigned Counsel Division (ACD) Expert Guidelines
How do I submit an expert request?
|1) Log into your online billing account. Online Billing Link : http://pb.opd.wi.gov/pbaccess/login.aspx
|2) Click on the text, "Expense Authorization" located on the Private Bar Online View page.|
|3) Click on the text, "Add New Request"|
|4) Select the case in which you would like to submit the request from the "Select a Case:" drop down menu. Once you select your case, click "Submit".|
|5) Complete the "Case Expense Request Edit" form and click "Submit Request" when complete.|
Hiring Experts & Investigators
Working with and paying experts is an essential part of criminal defense work. Finding the right expert, negotiating a reasonable rate of compensation, and managing the expert so s/he does not exceed approved amounts can be difficult and time consuming. The following are offered as practice tips to make this job easier.
In some cases the court is authorized or required to appoint an expert. Such cases usually involve psychological/psychiatric evaluations. The common examples are:
- Not guilty by reason of mental disease/defect - the court may appoint
- Competency to proceed - the court shall appoint
- Ch. 980 - the court shall appoint upon request of the subject of the petition
- Ch. 51 - the court shall appoint 2
When the court has appointed the expert, the county pays for that expert. The SPD will not pay for any expert appointed by the court. If the court has appointed an expert, you may still request approval for another expert from the SPD's Assigned Council Division (ACD). Your request should explain why a second expert is necessary.
The SPD has limited resources to pay for expert witnesses. That is why assigned counsel attorneys must obtain advanced approval to retain an expert. The cost of an expert can vary greatly depending on the type of expert and your locale. However, we rarely approve experts at their premium private pay rate. For example, physicians, including psychiatrists, are usually approved at between $125 and $175 per hour. DNA testing usually costs between $800 and $1200 dollars. ACD staff can assist you by providing information about the costs associated with various types of expert services.
You should negotiate the best price for your expert services. Many experts will work for less than their premium rate. Many experts will take a reduced rate for travel time. In some cases, it may make sense to negotiate a flat rate for an itemized list of services to be provided by the expert.
Because funds are limited, ACD will rarely approve an out of state witness. The cost of travel, travel time, and trial dates rescheduled at the last minute make this unreasonably expensive. In some instances, ACD may approve an out of state witness to consult with an in state witness in order to share particular expertise.
Once you have negotiated the costs with your expert and ACD has approved those costs, you should follow up with a letter to your expert. The letter should state clearly the amount approved and that the expert must contact the lawyer before exceeding the approved amount. The Wisconsin State Public Defender is not responsible for paying more than the approved amount.
The letter should clearly describe the services that have been negotiated for. Rather than say "psychological evaluation", the letter should list the work that goes into such an evaluation such as: review medical records, interview client, consult collateral sources, review police reports, provide written report to attorney. This will help to avoid misunderstandings and overbilling.
You should hold your experts to their original estimates of cost as much as possible. If the expert tells you that s/he will need more time to complete the work, you may request approval for additional funds from ACD. Approval must be obtained before allowing the expert to proceed.
Sometimes you have both good and bad information about your client and his/her case. You should consider carefully what information you provide to the expert. However, if you withhold material information from the expert, their conclusions may be suspect. Further, if you withhold material information, the expert may not be as able to defend his/her opinion on cross examination.
When you submit your bill to the SPD, you will submit the expert bill as an expense. You must also submit the expert's itemized invoice. The expert's invoice MUST include the date(s) of any and all service(s) provided. You will receive a check for your fees and expenses including the cost of the expert. You are then responsible for paying the expert.
Expert bills are ordinarily submitted with the attorney's bill at the end of the case. In some cases an expert bill may be processed before the case is concluded. You should contact ACD and request approval to submit an interim bill for your expert costs. Interim bills for experts will be generally approved if the case will not close for at least 60 days and the expert's work is completed.
The SPD cannot pay in advance for expert services. State rules only allow payment for services already performed. ACD will provide a letter to documenting approval and the amount the Agency has agreed to pay.
Sometimes there will be a witness in a case who happens to be an "expert". Often times this witness is the emergency room doctor, family physician, or counselor. If the testimony sought from such witnesses is for their expert opinions as well as their observations, they are entitled to expert fees. See In Re the Imposition of Sanctions in Alt v. Cline, 224 Wis. 2d 72 (1999) (In addition to demonstrating a compelling need for the expert's testimony, the party seeking the expert's testimony must present a plan of reasonable compensation.)
If you have such a witness in your case, you should speak with them and negotiate reasonable fees for their testimony. You must then get approval from ACD for those fees. If the expert is unreasonable, you may have to file a motion with the court asking the court to set reasonable fees for the expert.
There are four basic components to a properly submitted expense request.
|1) Why is this request being made?||Ex: Investigator needed to interview witnesses to support client's self defense theory|
|2) What services will be provided?||Ex: Investigator will conduct 4 interviews & write reports|
|3) Does the request justify the expense?||Ex: Investigator estimates 20 hours of time at a rate of $20.00 per hour|
|4) Complete all form fields||Complete all form fields on the online expense request form. Including current expert contact information.|