Random Audit FAQ

Q: I received an Ebill notice stating that one of my bills was randomly selected for audit. Was the bill really randomly selected or were there “red flags” that triggered the audit?

A: The bill was, in fact, randomly selected for audit by the Ebill system.

Q: Can the random audit be waived, or can I choose to not provide a response?

A: No, you must provide a response. Pursuant to guidelines from the Office of the State Auditor, we are unable to waive the requirement to submit a response to the random audit. Please note that if you fail to provide a complete response, your access to the Ebill system, as well as the payment of all bills, may be suspended.

Q: I’m very busy preparing for a big trial. What should I do if I need more time to provide my response?

A: Although you are given thirty (30) days to respond, if you need to request additional time due to personal and/or professional circumstances, you may contact the Department at randomaudit@publiccounsel.net. Please bear in mind that you are not being asked to create any documents in response to the random audit. Rather, you are only being asked to forward documents that already exist.

Q: I just submitted my random audit response to the fax/email/mailing address listed in the Ebill notice. When will I hear from you regarding the results of the audit?

A: Random audits are processed within thirty (30) days of receipt of your complete response.   At the conclusion of the audit, we will inform you of the results by mail.

 

Hours/Caseload FAQ

Q: I have reached the annual cap on billable hours, but still have additional bills to submit for this fiscal year. Can the annual cap be waived?

A: The 1,650 hour annual cap on billable hours is statutory and cannot be waived. In addition, attorneys who have been admitted to practice for less than two (2) years as of July 1st are limited to 1,500 hours per year. Please note, however, that in accordance with Chapter V, Section 17 of the Assigned Counsel Manual, in order to avoid prejudice and fulfill your ethical responsibility to provide fully competent representation to each client, you must continue to zealously advocate on behalf of all clients for whom assignments have been accepted, despite having reached the annual cap on billable hours. For this reason, it is important to track your billable hours in order to avoid exceeding the fiscal year limit.

Q: Does CPCS provide any warning that I am approaching or have exceeded 1,350 hours, or the 1,500/1,650 hour annual caps on billable hours?

A: Yes. CPCS sends automated notices warning that you are approaching the billing limits, and if you exceed the annual caps on billable hours. Please note, however, that these notices are based upon hours processed, not hours worked but un-billed. As such, it is incumbent upon assigned counsel to track their annual billable hours.

Q: I received an Ebill notice indicating that I have billed a certain number of hours so far this fiscal year. Do the hours listed in the notice include my most recent bill submissions?

A: No. Ebill automatically generates a notice during the processing of billable hours submitted. Therefore, the total number of hours listed in the notice may not include all of your recent un-processed bill submissions.

Q: I received an Ebill notice indicating that I have billed 1,350 hours. Will I continue to be paid for the work I do on cases assigned to me before I reached 1,350 hours?

A: Yes, you will be paid for work performed on cases that were assigned prior to you reaching 1,350 hours, subject to the Committee’s mandatory reductions and caps on billable hours. However, CPCS is statutorily prohibited from compensating you for work performed on any case assigned after you reached 1,350 hours.

Q: I was assigned to represent a client in District Court. The client was later indicted and a new NAC was issued by the Superior Court. I received a notice indicating that the Superior Court NAC rejected because I had exceeded 1,350 hours. Can I continue to represent the client in Superior Court?

A: Yes, as long as you were assigned to the District Court matter before reaching 1,350 hours. Because the Superior Court assignment is lateral representation of a matter previously assigned to you in the District Court, CPCS will accept the NAC. If this situation arises, please contact the Audit and Oversight Department by sending an email to attyhours@publiccounsel.net with the relevant information, including the specific circumstances, the client’s name and both NAC numbers.

Similarly, if you were assigned to represent a client in Juvenile Court and the client is then indicted, the Youthful Offender matter is considered lateral representation to the Juvenile Court matter. Also, Permanency Youth Adult (PYA) assignments are considered lateral representation to Care and Protection assignments.

Q: I was assigned to represent a client, but the NAC rejected because I had exceeded 1,350 hours. Can I be assigned to the case in the new fiscal year and be paid for the work I do after July 1st.

A: No. If the court attempts to reassign you to the same case in the new fiscal year, the NAC will automatically reject because the matter was originally assigned to you after you reached 1,350 hours.

Q: I represent a client on a case that was assigned to me before I reached 1,350 hours. I was later assigned to represent the same client on another case, but the new NAC rejected because I had exceeded 1,350 hours. Can I continue to represent the client?

A: When situations such as this arise, please contact the Audit and Oversight Department by sending an email to attyhours@publiccounsel.net with the relevant information, including the specific circumstances, the client’s name and both NAC numbers. Please be aware that if the NAC is ultimately rejected, the matter must be reassigned to successor counsel and CPCS cannot compensate you for services rendered on the NAC.

Q: I just submitted my year-end bills for the last fiscal year but I will receive payment for these services in the new fiscal year. Will the hours be included in my total for the last fiscal year or for the new fiscal year?

A: Annual hours are computed based upon the service dates on the bill, not when the bill is submitted or paid. Thus, the hours for service dates in the last fiscal year will be added to the total for the last fiscal year, even though the payment may be made in the current fiscal year.

Q: How can I find out how many hours I have billed so far this fiscal year?

A: You may send an email to attyhours@publiccounsel.net.

Q: I keep a record of the hours I’ve billed this fiscal year. How can I determine whether my records agree with CPCS’s records?

A: You may send an email to attyhours@publiccounsel.net and request a list of the bills processed to date.

Q: How can I find out how many open cases I currently have or how many cases I have been assigned so far this fiscal year?

A: You may send an email to caseload@publiccounsel.net.

 

Professional Liability Insurance FAQ

Q: How much professional liability insurance does CPCS require?

A: According to Chapter II, Section 10 of the Assigned Counsel Manual, attorneys must maintain continuous professional liability (malpractice) insurance with a coverage amount of not less than either $100,000/$300,000 or $250,000/$250,000, with a deductible of not more than $10,000.

Please be aware that a cancellation or lapse in coverage can have the effect of voiding coverage for any claims that arise prior to the date of any new policy.   If you obtain “claims made” professional liability coverage, your policy should include a “prior acts” date, which covers all work performed on behalf of CPCS clients. It is, therefore, extremely important that you maintain continuous insurance coverage from one policy period to the next.

Q: What is a “Certificate Holder” and why does my Bar Advocate Program or CPCS request to be named as such on my policy?

A: A “Certificate Holder” on an insurance policy is entitled to notice if the policy lapses or is cancelled. Because a cancellation or lapse in coverage can void coverage for prior claims, if you are a member of any Bar Advocate Program(s), the program(s), including the address(es), must be named as a “Certificate Holder” on the policy. If you do not belong to any Bar Advocate Program(s), or if you cease to be a member of any Bar Advocate Program(s), then the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Attn: Audit and Oversight, One Congress Street, Suite 102, Boston, MA 02114, must be named as the “Certificate Holder.”

Q: My insurance policy was cancelled. What should I do?

A: Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 10 of the Assigned Counsel Manual, if your insurance lapses or is cancelled, you must immediately notify your Bar Advocate Program(s) and/or CPCS, in writing.  Additionally, you must immediately obtain a new professional liability insurance policy which establishes a “prior acts” date restoring coverage for at least the preceding six (6) years, or from the date you began accepting CPCS case assignments, whichever is more recent. You must also provide proof of the new policy, including “prior acts” coverage, to your Bar Advocate Program(s) and/or CPCS.

Please note that if you do not provide proof of continuous professional liability insurance coverage upon request, the payment of all bills and your ability to accept new assignments will be suspended, and your existing cases may be reassigned.