Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Expense Reimbursements and Per Diem Allowances
A. General Rules
Attorneys are compensated for the most economical means of transit, regardless of the mode actually used. In determining the cost of travel, CCAP will (1) examine both the expense and the attorney time and (2) apply Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF) and any preauthorization requirements.
Counsel are advised to retain copies of receipts. Some receipts for hotel and airfare may be requested by the project or by the JCC.
Third & Fifth District Cases: Do you need preauthorization?
Prior approval for any travel other than for oral argument must be preauthorized for all Third and Fifth District cases. See Preauthorization Steps & Procedures. Questions regarding the need for travel preauthorization or regarding coverage of travel related expenses should be directed to CCAP prior to incurring the expense.
B. Per Diem Allowance
- What is a per diem allowance?
A per diem allowance is a payment for meals and lodging to appointed counsel traveling on appeal-related business and is permitted only for necessary overnight trips. The panel allowance is set by the JCC and AIDOAC. Rates do not necessarily match current per diem rates for state employees, nor do the rates automatically increase when state employee rates increase.
- How much is the CAC per diem allowance?
The JCC has established the following statewide maximum allowances when related to a necessary overnight trip. The rates apply to cases where counsel was appointed on or after January 1, 2017.
Lodging (see lodging caveat in Item 5 below)
Lodging guidelines do not necessarily match the current allowance given to state employees. Generally the lodging rate is $110.00 plus taxes. (Note: Although many Sacramento hotel rates may exceed the $110-a-day allowance rate, the allowance is a fixed rate and not subject to a discretionary increase by CCAP.) However, the following rates apply in the specified counties:
$120 in Monterey, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura Counties
$140 in Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties
$150 in San Francisco County
Incidentals are reimbursable at the actual amount if the costs were reasonably incurred, such as bridge fares and garage/parking fees.
- Does the per diem allowance cover my expenses dollar for dollar?
Yes, as long as the expense incurred is within the guideline amounts per category. You may only claim what you actually spend, regardless of whether the amount spent for per diem expenses was more or less than the allowance.
- May I divide the allowances between lodging and meals if I go over in one area and under in another?
No. The per diem allowance is guidelines for your expenses and should be adhered to as closely as possible. If, for example, you are trying to stay within the allowance and want a more expensive dinner, you cannot spend less on other meals to combine allowances to “make up the difference.” CCAP will most likely cut an over-guideline amount where your actual expenses per meal are greater than the allowance for it.
- What if my lodging exceeds the state allowance/guideline?
Unfortunately, the “state rate” is available only to state employees, not to independent contractors for the state. Because panel attorneys are independent contractors, the state rate is not available to you. Therefore, your actual cost for lodging may be more or less than the per diem allowance for lodging depending on the area you have traveled to. For example, staying in San Francisco will be necessarily higher than staying in Fresno. However, the JCC does not expect panel attorneys to opt for suite accommodations, when a clean, simple room will do. Attorneys are urged to use their business and common sense in choosing adequate, clean and safe accommodations.
- What period does the per diem allowance cover?
The per diem allowance covers your round-trip travel time and the time you attend your appeal-related function, e.g., your court appearance. According to the Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF) for appointed counsel, per diem expenses apply only to a necessary overnight trip. Round-trip travel time from your home or office to the site of the function includes only your actual travel time. Time taken in transit for personal reasons is not covered.The per diem applies from the beginning to the end of the appeal-related function. For some early morning court appearances, the designated beginning may be the evening before in order to allow a timely appearance at court. If you choose to arrive early or stay after the function ends for personal reasons, you must deduct that time from your per diem claim.
- What if I stay less than 24 hours?
For periods less than 24 hours, you will generally be allowed amounts shown in item 2 for only the following categories and only if there is an overnight stay involved:
Breakfast – if the covered period begins at 7:00 a.m. or earlier;
Lunch – up to allowance amount;
Dinner – if the period ends at 6:00 p.m. or later;
Lodging – up to allowance amount;
Incidentals – actual cost if reasonable to incur.
- Do I get a per diem allowance for trips of 25 miles or less?
No. An allowance for meals or lodging is neither given for trips of 25 miles or less one-way, nor short trips not warranting an overnight stay. The distance is measured from your home or office, whichever is closer to the function. Also, you will not be compensated for travel time for client visits/superior court file review/exhibits/etc. if the travel is 25 miles or less one-way. But mileage (and other related necessary travel expenses such as bridge tolls) will be reimbursed without regard to the 25-mile limitation. If the appeal-related function is more than 25 miles away and you choose to return home each night, per diem amounts do not apply.
- Does the per diem allowance cover all of my expenses at a case related function?
No. The per diem allowance generally applies only to meals and lodging. For example, it does not cover room video rentals or clerk copying charges. (Copying charges should be anticipated and may be covered under a separate preauthorization for expenditure from the Court.)
- What is a per diem allowance?
C. Travel Expense Reimbursement
- Will I also be reimbursed for my travel expenses?
Yes, when covered by state travel guidelines for the panel. The travel reimbursements should be your actual expenses of traveling round-trip and overnight between your home or office and the function if it was the least expensive means of transportation available. These expenses should be anticipated ahead of time and included in the travel preauthorization request submitted to CCAP. You may be asked to submit receipts for some travel expenses such as hotel and airfare receipts.If you travel by plane, you will be allowed coach fare plus the cost of a shuttle or other ride to and from each airport. (See the airports rate chart in the Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF).)If the airline does not provide tickets and it is a ticketless flight, then the itinerary with the same pricing and other information that would be found on the ticket should be submitted with the claim. You will also be allowed the least expensive long-term parking expenses. (See airports rate chart in the guidelines.)When train or plane is the most economical, attorneys are not paid for the time actually in transit, as that time can be spent reading, doing other work, etc.If you choose to drive and the expenses claimed are more than air travel would have been, your reimbursement will be limited to that airfare plus ground transportation cost and parking. You may submit a comparison to the project showing a MapQuest type of printout showing mileage and a comparison airfare estimate.You will be allowed travel expenses for necessary, preauthorized trips of any length. The 25-mile, one-way limitation (see Item B.8 above) does not apply to the travel expense allowance (as opposed to time).
- What is the current allowance for driving my private car?
What about a taxi?
The current reimbursable rate is 50 cents per mile for mileage incurred on cases where counsel was appointed on or after January 1, 2017. (See Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF) for mileage rates in effect for travel for cases where counsel was appointed prior to January 1, 2017.) Use of a taxi will not be reimbursed unless it is shared and the cost is less than a shuttle. (See Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF).) If a ride-share options is used, a comparison cost explanation should be provided.
- May I see an example showing how the per diem allowance and travel reimbursement work?
A panel attorney has received CCAP preauthorization for a Fifth District Court of Appeal case for a confidential visit with her client in Iron Mountain State Prison located in Blythe (Southern California). (The attorney submitted a travel request estimating the total costs for this trip would not exceed $600.) The trip is for a case where counsel was appointed after January 1, 2017.At 7:00 a.m., after eating breakfast at home, she drives 20 miles from her San Francisco office to a park-and-fly lot at the SFO airport and flies on a ticketless flight to Palm Springs for $198 roundtrip coach airfare. She rents a car and drives to Blythe, has lunch, visits with her client, drives back to Palm Springs, stops for an early dinner and catches the 6:00 p.m. ticketless flight back to San Francisco. The cost of the roundtrip rental car was $70.00; she paid $7.00 to refill the gas tank. Her lunch was $5.00 and dinner was $17.43. The cost of retrieving her car in the park-and-fly is $40. She arrives home that night at 11:00 p.m., having stopped for an hour to visit friends on the way home from the airport.The travel reimbursement for this example would be computed as follows:Airfare (ticketless itinerary submitted) – $198.00
Mileage to/from airport in own car (40 miles @ 50 ¢/mile) – $20.00
Rental car (receipt submitted) – $70.00
Gasoline – no allowance
Long-term parking – $9.00 (max. allowance under Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF))
Example 1 – Total travel expenses = $297Plus, the per diem allowance would be computed as follows:
Lunch – no allowance
Dinner – no allowance
Example 1 – Total per diem allowance = zeroExample 1 – Explanation: The period covered by the trip would begin at 7:00 a.m. when the attorney left her office, and ended at 10:00 p.m., when she would have returned home if she hadn’t stopped to visit friends. However, a full per diem allowance is now only permitted if an overnight stay is involved. In addition, only $9.00 of the parking receipt qualified for reimbursement under the Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF). Finally, the use of a rental car here is reimbursable because public transportation is not otherwise readily available. The gas is not reimbursable. Counsel wisely sought input and preauthorization from CCAP for this trip.Example 2
A panel attorney has received CCAP preauthorization for a Third District Court of Appeal case to appear at a record settlement hearing to be heard in Shasta County Superior Court in Redding, California. (The attorney submitted a travel request estimating the total costs for this trip would not exceed $600.) The hearing is scheduled for two afternoon sessions due to scheduling conflicts for the trial judge now seated in a different county. The trip is for a case where counsel was appointed after January 1, 2017.At 7:00 p.m., after eating dinner at home, he drives 100 miles from his home in Yolo to Redding where he has pre-booked a room at a hotel for two nights. The regular room rate is $104 per night, but he obtained the room at a rate of $94 because he is a qualifying-discount auto club member. He has breakfast at the hotel restaurant, spends several hours preparing for the 1:00 p.m. appearance, eats lunch, and then drives four miles to the courthouse where he spends three hours at the hearing. The court continues the matter to the next afternoon. The attorney drives four miles back to his hotel, walks to dinner, and then settles in for the night to watch the latest new release, for an additional $3.50 charge on his hotel bill. His breakfast was $9.00, his lunch was $10.50, and his dinner was $22.00.The next morning the attorney eats breakfast at the hotel restaurant, spends several hours again preparing for the afternoon appearance, eats lunch, and then drives four miles to the courthouse. The hearing concludes after two more hours. The attorney drives 104 miles back home, gets stuck in a traffic jam due to an earlier highway accident, and finally arrives home at 6:30 p.m. His breakfast was $9.00, his lunch was $11.00, and he did not stop for dinner.The travel reimbursement for this example would be computed as follows:
Own car (212 miles @ 50 ¢/mile) – $106
Example 2 – Total travel expenses = $106Plus, the per diem allowance would be computed as follows:
Hotel 1st night – no allowance
Breakfast 1 – no allowance
Lunch 1 – $10.50 [reflecting actual amount paid which is within max. allowance] Dinner 1 – $20.00 [reduced to maximum per diem allowance] Hotel 2nd night – $94.00 [reflecting actual amount paid] Video rental – no allowance
Breakfast 2 – $8.00 [reduced to maximum per diem allowance] Lunch 2 – $11.00 [reflecting actual amount paid] Dinner 2 – no allowance because not incurred
Example 2 – Total per diem allowance = $143.50Example 2 – Explanation: The period covered by the trip would begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. on the day of the first appearance because it was not necessary for the attorney to spend the night the first night in order to make the 1:00 p.m. appearance; the per diem period would end at 6:00 p.m. the next day. A per diem allowance is based on the necessity of an overnight stay and travel periods, or from 11:00 a.m. on day one to 11:00 a.m. on day two, plus an additional continuing period on day two from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. which would cover lunch and dinner (if the attorney had eaten both).
- Will I also be reimbursed for my travel expenses?