Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I get certified to take court appointed cases?
Persons seeking to become eligible to accept court appointments must be attorneys in good standing with the Virginia State Bar (VSB) and complete the statutory requirements for eligibility. The requirements for eligibility are set forth in Virginia Code § 19.2-163.03 for felony, misdemeanor and juvenile certification, and in § 19.2-163.8 for capital defense certification. A list of the requirements and applications for certification can be found on the VIDC’s website under the training link.
After completing the initial requirements for certification and completing the application, counsel should forward the completed application to the address listed on the form. After verification that all criteria have been met, counsel will be added to the list of counsel eligible for court appointments.
2. I have completed the necessary requirements for certification. How do I start receiving court appointments?
Under Virginia Code § 19.2-159, where the court must refer to the list of eligible attorneys to appoint counsel, such counsel “shall be selected by a fair system of rotation among members of the bar practicing before the court whose names are on the list maintained by the Indigent Defense Commission.” Because the selection system varies from court to court, counsel should contact the local clerk’s office to find out the criteria for getting on the court’s list of counsel eligible for court appointments.
3. I have questions related to payment on my court appointed voucher. Who should I contact?
All payment questions for court appointed cases should be directed to either the initial court where the voucher was submitted or to the Virginia Supreme Court. The VIDC has no involvement in the payment of court appointed counsel.
4. To re-certify, do I have to take the entire 10 hour initial certification course?
No. Once an attorney has been initially certified to accept court appointments, an attorney may maintain their eligibility by taking any VIDC-approved criminal MCLE course. A list of approved courses is published on the Commission’s website under the training link. If an attorney has taken a course which is not listed on the website, and the attorney has a question as to whether the course meets the certification requirements, the attorney should contact the Training Director.
5. I’ve been representing criminal clients for many years. Can I receive a waiver of the re-certification requirements?
No. While attorneys with extensive criminal law experience may receive a waiver of the initial certification requirements, all attorneys on the court appointment list must submit the statutorily required hours for re-certification.
6. Can I take online courses to satisfy the re-certification requirement?
Yes. Attorneys may re-certify through any of the traditional methods for receiving MCLE credit: online, telephone, or video replay. While the Commission does not currently offer online or telephone MCLE courses, we have included a link on our website to several organizations that offer these services. Once an attorney has completed the course, the attorney should include the course and the hours received on the certification renewal form and forward the form to the training office.
7. How do I know if a course I took (or plan to take) meets the criteria for felony, misdemeanor, juvenile or capital certification/re-certification?
A list of approved MCLE courses is published on the Commission’s website under the training link. The courses are arranged by certification area, and list the number of hours available for each course. If an attorney does not see a course listed on the website, but has questions as to whether it provides certification credits, they should contact the Training Administrator at (804) 662-7249, extension 10.
8. Do my GAL credits count towards my certification requirements?
No. The standard for representation as a GAL differs from that of a defense attorney. Courses for GAL representation are designed around this different standard and do not meet the certification requirements for indigent defense counsel.
9. Why can’t you just get my hours from the Virginia State Bar (VSB)?
The Virginia Indigent Defense Commission is an independent state agency that is not connected to the VSB. The VIDC does not have access to an individual attorney’s VSB record. An individual attorney’s MCLE record is only available to the attorney, and the online account is password protected. The Commission does not require attorneys to provide this sensitive information in order to access an attorney’s VSB records.
Attorneys must forward their completed MCLE forms to the VSB to insure receipt of MCLE credit. This applies to MCLE credits received for GAL courses as well as criminal defense courses. Only certification and re-certification forms should be forwarded to the VIDC.
10. Can I satisfy the four hour juvenile re-certification requirement by teaching a juvenile MCLE course?
Yes. Just as the State Bar permits up to four (4) hours of MCLE credit for each hour of MCLE taught, the Commission has approved the same practice for attorneys who teach certification courses. Attorneys interested in teaching an MCLE course should contact the Training Director for more information.
11. Can I represent an adult in juvenile court even if I have not received my juvenile certification?
Yes. Juvenile certification only governs representation of juvenile defendants. Juvenile certification is not needed to represent adult defendants even if the charges are heard in juvenile court or involve a juvenile complainant.
12. What happens if I fail to re-certify before my two-year expiration date?
Attorneys who fail to re-certify before their expiration date are removed from the court appointed list. The names of attorneys removed from the list are reported to the Office of the Executive Secretary for the Virginia Supreme Court in accordance with § 19.2-163.01(4). Attorneys may be returned to the list of eligible attorneys for court appointments only upon a showing that they have completed the statutorily required hours for certification.
13. I’ve taken the bar exam, but I haven’t received my results yet. Can I take the initial certification training class anyway?
No. Only attorneys in good standing with the VSB are eligible to accept court appointments. Just as the VSB does not accept MCLE credit hours taken before an attorney is licensed, the VIDC only allows those attorneys in good standing and eligible to accept court appointments to attend the initial certification training.
14. Where can I get a copy of the Standards of Practice?
Attorneys can download a copy of the Standards of Practice from the Commission’s website.
15. I just saw an attorney in court who appeared to be violating the Standards of Practice. What should I do?
All attorneys accepting court appointments for indigent defendants are bound by the Standards of Practice for Indigent Defense Counsel. If a person believes that someone has violated the Standards, they should file a complaint through the Standards of Practice Enforcement Attorney. More information on the enforcement process is available on the Commission’s website under the Standards of Practice Enforcement link on the VIDC website’s home page.
16. I need additional MCLE hours. How do I request the training DVDs?
The VIDC provides the training DVDs to public defenders and local bar associations. Information on how to request training DVDs is available on the Commission’s website under the training link.