Policies and Instructions for Appointed Counsel Billing
Your acceptance of a case appointment completes an agreement between you and the Office of the State Public Defender. Subject to the conditions below, we promise to pay your reasonable hours of professional legal services in exchange for your promise to ethically and competently represent the client in this case. "Reasonable hours" are those required by an experienced, prudent and competent practitioner to provide effective assistance in the assigned case. Attorneys agree to promptly reimburse SPD approved experts and/or investigators upon receipt of payment from the SPD.
Billing and Scope of Appointment: Appointments by the trial offices cover all proceedings at the trial court level through dismissal, sentencing, or other disposition. Appointments by the appellate office covers postconviction, postcommitment or postdispositional representation of a client in proceedings indicated in the Order Appointing Counsel.
Attorneys must seek prior approval for any ancillary representation or work which is not squarely within the scope of appointment as described above. The SPD may not be able to pay for work done which is outside the scope of the original appointment without prior approval.
Hourly Rates: Attorneys will be paid $40 per hour for in-court and out-of-court time. Attorneys will be paid $25 per hour for travel time falling within the travel time policies described below.
Timesheets and Timekeeping: Time sheets submitted as part of the invoice must be accurate as to date, activity, type of service, and time. By submitting time sheets, attorneys are certifying that the entries are accurate. SPD reviews will be based on that certification of accuracy.
Attorneys may bill only for the time actually spent providing professional legal services on the case billed. If an attorney has hearings or conferences for multiple clients in a day, the total in court and waiting time must be split between the cases. If an attorney travels to an institution or to a courthouse to provide service to multiple clients, the total travel and waiting time must be split between the cases or billed only on one case. Attorneys may never bill more than once for any time worked.
In-court and out-of-court time must be indicated on the time sheet. In-court time is time spent representing a client before a court, before a court commissioner or before the Department of Hearings and Appeals in a probation or parole revocation proceeding.
All entries for travel time must include starting city, destination city/location(s), return city/location and total miles traveled.
Time sheets must contain sufficient information to allow the SPD to perform its auditing and review responsibilities. Attorneys must bill each activity to the nearest tenth of an hour. A short description of each activity must be provided. The description should be detailed enough to allow the auditors to determine if the time is reimbursable. For example, an entry of “file work”, “phone calls”, “develop legal theory”, or “research motion” does not adequately describe the work performed. Entries like “develop time line from police reports”, “phone conversation with client”, “outline hearsay issue”, or “research statement suppression issue” are acceptable.
Contemporaneous time records must be maintained for all cases handled on appointment from the SPD. These records need not be submitted to our office with your billings, but must form the basis of your completion of the time sheets submitted. You may use the online time slip to maintain contemporaneous time records. You must keep these records for at least three years to resolve questions the SPD may have about your billings. Failure to maintain these records may result in non-payment of a questioned bill.
Attorneys are often appointed to multiple cases for a single client. Attorneys often have court appearances for several clients on the same day. Attorneys must have a time keeping and billing system that prevents duplicate time and travel entries on time sheets.
Time records and time sheet entries should be supported by work product in the client’s file. Work product may include notes, correspondence, phone message slips, pleadings, etc. Hours claimed that are not supported by work product in the file will not be paid.
Invoice Submission generally: Beginning July 1, 2009 all regular invoices must be submitted
online. Supplemental bills are submitted by paper invoice. Forms are available on our website at
www.wisspd.org. Invoices must be complete and include all required receipts and documentation. The SPD cannot process invoices that are incomplete.
Online bills are submitted electronically to the Assigned Counsel Division using the attorney’s password protected billing page.
By submitting an invoice, online or by paper, an attorney certifies that the invoice is accurate in all respects, the invoice complies with billing rules, and that the attorney provided representation in compliance with SPD minimum attorney performance standards. The attorney is responsible for the accuracy of bills and compliance with billing rules even if the billing is prepared and submitted by another at the attorney’s request.
When Invoices are Submitted: Attorneys should submit final bills within 60 days of the conclusion of the case. Under this appointment agreement, interest is paid on uncontested bills paid more than 120 days after their submission. This appointment agreement also provides that the failure to submit bills within six months of the conclusion of the case releases the SPD from both the obligation to promptly pay bills and to pay interest for bills paid after 120 days from their submission. Wis. Admin. Code § PD 4.02. Billings received more than six years after conclusion of the case cannot be paid. Wis. Const. Art. 8, Sec. 2.
For appellate cases, attorneys should submit their bill when the case passes from one court to another. Bills should be submitted after completion of postconviction motions and the filing of the notice of appeal. A new bill should be submitted again after litigation is concluded in the Court of Appeals. If you file a no-merit report, do not submit a bill until the Court of Appeals accepts (i.e. rules on) the report. Another new bill should be submitted after litigation is concluded in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Attorney may seek approval to submit an interim bill for payment of expert fees, investigator fees or attorney time. Interim bills for experts and investigators will be approved in most instances if the case will not close for at least 30 days and the expert/investigator has performed a significant amount of work or if the expert or investigator's work is completed. Approval of an interim bill for attorney time will be considered when the attorney has performed a substantial amount of work on the case, the case is more than six months old, and the case is unlikely to be completed within 60 days of the request for approval. Approval of more than one interim bill will be granted only in rare circumstances.
Direct Billing of Certain Expenses: Two types of expenses should be billed directly to the SPD and do not require submission of an invoice.
Expense Approval and Documentation:
- If the attorney must provide a copy of a client file to the client or to successor counsel before of after they have closed and billed the case, the attorney should bill both the copying cost and the delivery cost directly to the fiscal unit of the SPD. The attorney must complete a Client File Copying and Delivery Expense Reimbursement form and submit it along with the required receipts and verifications.
- In appellate cases, the cost of production of any briefs and the delivery cost to file the briefs should be billed directly to the Assigned Counsel Division of the SPD. The attorney must complete an Appellate Brief Printing and Delivery Reimbursement form and submit it along with the required receipts.
You will be reimbursed for reasonable expenses in the representation of your client. Although receipts are not required to be reimbursed for most expenses totaling less than $50, you must retain receipts for all expenses to support your billing. The Assigned Counsel Division may request such receipts at any time for auditing purposes. Expenses not supported by receipts may be disallowed.
Most expenses of more than $100 require prior written approval. Approval is obtained by submitting an expense request using the attorney’s online billing page. The SPD is not required to reimburse attorneys for expenses that do not have the required written approval. Please see the list of reimbursable expenses below for those that require prior written approval and/or receipts.
Not all types of expenses are reimbursable. Please see the list of non-reimbursable expenses below. The SPD is not required to reimburse attorneys for these types of expenses.
Reimbursable and non-reimbursable expense rules apply to expenses incurred by retained experts and investigators.
If there are questions, please contact the Assigned Counsel Division prior to incurring an expense.
Reimbursable Time and Expenses:
- all hours spent providing professional legal services to a client in an appointed case.
- All time spent traveling related to a case if any portion of the trip is outside the county in which
the attorney's principal office is located or if the trip requires traveling a distance of more than
30 miles, one way, from the attorney's principal office.
SPD Travel Time Rules
Questions about expenses, approvals and receipts should be directed to the Assigned Counsel Division
prior to undertaking the expense.
- Investigative, expert and other professional services. Requires written advance approval. Requires and itemized bill from the expert, investigator or other professional;
- Mileage for all driving related to an appointed case at the rate set by the State of Wisconsin at the time the case was appointed. (Electronic bills automatically insert the correct mileage rate.)
- Parking expenses. No receipt is required for reimbursement, but receipts must be retained and produced upon request.
- All reasonable duplication expenses related to serving and filing appellate documents (e.g., motions, briefs, petitions for review, no-merit reports) that are reasonably required to discharge counsel's duties or obligations in the appointed case. The reimbursement rates are $.10 per page for in-office copying and not more than $.10 per page for out-of-office copying plus any fees for producing, compiling, or stapling. An invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement if the expense totals $50 or more;
Expenses for duplication of the circuit court case record and transcripts will not be reimbursed unless the attorney is required to forward copies to the client under Wis. Stat. § 809.32(1)(d). Other copies made for the attorney's own file or records are not reimbursable.
- All reasonable duplication expenses in trial cases for out-of-office copying. An invoice from the copying service indicating the number of pages and price per page is required.
- Printing of discovery from electronic format. The maximum reimbursement rate for printing discovery is $.10/page. The attorney must provide a signed certification stating the number of pages printed if the printing is done in-office. A receipt is required if the out of office printing expense if $50 or more.
- Copying of the client file for transmission to the client or successor counsel. The maximum reimbursement rate for copying is $.10/page. The attorney must complete a Client File Copying and Delivery Expense Reimbursement form and provide the required receipts and verifications.
- Delivery/postage costs to transmit a client file to the client or successor counsel. Attorneys should minimize the cost of file transmission. The attorney must complete a Client File Copying and Delivery Expense Reimbursement form and provide the required receipts and verifications.
- Records for case evaluation or evidentiary purposes (medical records, school records, social service
records, etc.). If the cost of obtaining these records is likely to be more than $100, prior
written approval is required. The cost of in-state medical records is reimbursable at the rate set by the administrative code. Other records are reimbursable at reasonable rates. An invoice or receipt is required for all medical record expenses. An invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement if the expense totals $50 or more.
- Local collect phone calls from the client. and long-distance telephone calls, including long distance charges for fax. An itemized invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement if the expense totals $50 or more.
- Long distance calls and faxes. Long distance calls and faxes will only be reimbursed if the calls and faxes result in a separate and additional charge to the standard bill for maintaining phone service.
- Online legal research. Online legal research will only be reimbursed if the research results in a separate and additional charge to the standard subscription rate paid by the attorney. Any such expense expected to be more than $20 requires prior approval.
- For appellate cases, all reasonable expenses for mailing, serving and filing motions, briefs, petitions for review, no-merit reports or other documents required to discharge counsel's duties or obligations in the appointed case. This does not apply to general correspondence in appellate matters. Counsel must effectuate timely filing and service in the least expensive manner available. Counsel may utilize the United States mail or third party commercial carriers. However, express mail and express delivery charges are disfavored and are subject to disallowance by the Assigned Counsel Division if unreasonable. An invoice or receipt is necessary for reimbursement.
- Hotel and meals may be reimbursed if staying overnight 60 or more miles one way from
home. Reimbursement is limited to the current state rates in effect at the time the expense is incurred.
Prior approval and a receipt is required for reimbursement.
- All out-of-state travel expenses require prior approval. Expenses require receipts in the same way as in-state travel, hotel, and meals.
- Other reasonable expenses related to the case. The purpose of the expense must be documented and it
must be accompanied by receipts or bills if $50 or more. Any expense likely to be more than $100
requires prior written approval.
Non-Reimbursable Time and Expenses:
- Contact with the SPD on case appointment and other administrative issues;
- Work done prior to date of appointment by SPD office;
- Work done which is primarily secretarial or administrative in nature;
- Completion of all SPD forms (including all billing forms, expense requests, etc.);
- Work done by an attorney other than the appointed attorney, except that an SPD-certified attorney may, with the client's consent, substitute at a routine appearance (i.e., no evidence taken, no testimony, no significant legal argument, and no disposition, including plea bargaining), provided, however, no more than five hours of substituted attorney time may occur or be paid in each case;
- Uncompleted phone calls;
- Time spent appealing our payment decisions.
- Office overhead, such as in-office photocopying (except as noted above), secretarial and paralegal time, local telephone calls, local in-office faxing, and postage (except as noted above);
- Hotel or meals without advance approval;
- Expert, investigative or other attorney services incurred without advance approval by the SPD;
- Transcript preparation fees which are payable by the state or county (e.g. state appeals);
- Process service fees without advance approval;
- Witness and court filing fees;
- Client transportation;
- Costs associated with an appeal of our payment decisions.
All invoices are audited for required documentation and approvals, to insure that non-reimbursable time or expenses have not been billed, and that time totals and expenses totals are accurate. Invoices are also reviewed for reasonableness. "Reasonable hours" are those hours required by an experienced, prudent and competent practitioner to provide effective assistance of counsel in the assigned case. The SPD may require additional information regarding bills that are significantly higher than the average for the case type.
Pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 977.08(4), the State Public Defender may approve or reject a bill in whole or in part. Should you be dissatisfied with the decision of the State Public Defender's Office regarding your bill, you have the right to appeal the decision to the State Public Defender Board. See Wis. Stat. § 977.08(4). The appeal must be filed in writing with the State Public Defender at 315 N. Henry St., 2nd Floor, Madison, WI 53703-3233 within 30 days of receipt of payment. The appeal must include a statement explaining why the attorney believes the adjustment to the bill was inappropriate.
Attorney’s bills are also subject to cumulative audits. The SPD will not pay for more than 15 hours in a single day in most instances. Consideration will be given on a case by case basis for exceptional circumstances which may justify payment of more than 15 hours in a single day. Attorneys with days of more than 15 hours will be contacted before any adjustments to payments are made. Attorneys should be prepared to produce contemporaneous time records for the dates in question. The SPD will not pay for more than 2080 hours worked in a calendar year. Please see PD 4. 06. Attorneys who bill more than 2080 hours worked in a calendar year will be contacted before any recoupment is made.
Other types of cumulative audits may be conducted. Audits to check for duplicate travel and other time are routine. Audits of invoices may occur when an attorney has a pattern of high billing, unit billing, or other irregular billing practices. In some instances, the WSPD is obligated to report improper billing to the Office of Lawyer Regulation, local prosecutors, or the Department of Justice.
Compliance with these rules will ensure prompt payment. If you have a question regarding billings, please address inquiries to the Assigned Counsel Division.
Who do I contact if I have more questions?
Assigned Counsel Division
P.O. Box 7923 Madison, WI 53707-7923
(608)261-0625 - Fax