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per diem expenses

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Per Diem Allowance and Travel Expense Reimbursement as Applied to Third and Fifth District Courts of Appeal Cases

  1. General Rules

    Prior approval for any travel other than for oral argument must be pre-authorized for all Third and Fifth District cases.

    Questions regarding the need for travel pre-authorization or regarding coverage of travel related expenses should be directed to CCAP prior to incurring the expense.

    Attorneys are compensated for the most economical means of transit, regardless of the mode actually used. In determining the cost of travel, CCAP will examine both the expense and the attorney time and apply Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF) and any preauthorization requirements. 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, other work, etc.

    Counsel are advised to provide copies of receipts whenever possible or a certification of lost receipt. Receipts for hotel and airfare are required under Statewide Travel Guidelines (PDF).

  2. Per Diem Allowance
    1. 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. The per diem allowance is now permitted only for overnight trips. The allowance is a set amount determined according to rates and rules set by the State Board of Control and as adopted and interpreted by the AOC/AIDOAC and CCAP.

    2. How much is the per diem allowance?
      The standard allowance for meals and lodging is $144. Lodging guidelines are based upon the rate allowance given to state employees of up to $110 a day (plus taxes), but may be reimbursable if the actual cost incurred for lodging reasonably exceeds that amount for the location/area stayed in (e.g., San Francisco). Note: Here in Sacramento, although many hotel rates may exceed the $110-a-day allowance rate, the allowance is a fixed rate and is not subject to a discretionary increase by CCAP.

    3. How is the per diem allowance calculated?
      The AOC has established the following statewide maximum allowances when related to a necessary overight trip:
      Breakfast $6.00
      Lunch $10.00
      Dinner $18.00
      Lodging $110.00 + taxes (but see lodging caveat in Item 6 below.)
      Incidentals = actual cost if reasonable to incur, such as bridge fares

    4. 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. The amount you actually spend for per diem expenses may be more or less than the allowance; you may claim only what you actually spend.

    5. 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.

    6. What if my lodging exceeds the state allowance/guideline?
      The allowance for lodging is the "state rate" available only to state employees. Since panel attorneys are not state employees, the "state rate" price break given by many hotels to state employees 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 Bakersfield. However, the AOC does not expect panel attorneys to opt for fancy suite accommodations (e.g. the Fairmont Hotel), when a clean, simple room (e.g., the Best Western) will do. Attorneys are urged to use their business and common sense in choosing adequate, clean and safe accommodations.

    7. What period does the per diem allowance cover?
      The per diem allowance covers your round-trip travel time and the time you attend to 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. (Counsel are urged to request an afternoon calendaring if possible.) If for personal reasons you choose to arrive early or stay on after the function ends, you must deduct that time from your per diem claim.

    8. What if I stay less than 24 hours?
      For periods less than 24 hours, you will generally be allowed amounts shown in item 3 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

    9. Do I get a per diem allowance for trips of 25 miles or less?
      No. An allowance for meals or lodging is not given for trips of 25 miles or less one-way, or 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.

    10. Does the per diem allowance cover all expenses at an appeal related function?
      No. Generally speaking, the per diem allowance applies only to meals and lodging. It does not cover, for example, room video rentals or clerk copying charges. (Copying charges should be anticipated and may be covered under a separate pre-authorization for expenditure from the Court.)
  3. Travel Expense Reimbursement
    1. Will I also be reimbursed for my travel expenses?
      Yes. The travel reimbursement will usually be your actual expenses of traveling round-trip and overnight between your home or office and the function if it was the least expensive way to do it. These expenses should be anticipated ahead of time and included in the travel pre-authorization request filed with the Court of Appeal.

      You must submit receipts for most travel expenses. Hotel and airfare receipts are required.

      The travel reimbursement will cover the cost of the least expensive means of transportation available. If you travel by plane, you will be allowed coachfare plus the cost of a shuttle 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.)

      If you choose to drive and the cost claimed is 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 printout showing mileage and a copy of an airfare estimate.

      You will be allowed travel expenses for necessary, pre-authorized trips of any length. The 25-mile one-way limitation (see Item 9 above) does not apply to the travel expense allowance (as opposed to time).

    2. What is the current allowance for driving my private car?
      What about a taxi?

      The current reimbursable rate is 48.5 cents per mile for mileage incurred on or after 1/1/07. (See Statewide Guidelines for mileage rates in effect for travel incurred prior to 1/1/07.) 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).)

    3. May I see an example showing how the per diem allowance and travel reimbursement work?

      Example 1
      A panel attorney has received pre-authorization from the Fifth District Court of Appeal for a confidential visit with her client in Iron Mountain State Prison located in Blythe, in Southern California. The trip is post-1/1/07.

      At 7 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 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. Counsel sought CCAP input and preauthorization from the court.

      (Note: preauthorization for this trip must be sought directly from the Fifth District Court of Appeal; Third District Court of Appeal requests should be submitted first to CCAP. In cases for the Third District, CCAP can preauthorize up to a $600 travel and related expenses, or if the request exceeds that amount, we will forward it to the Third District with a recommendation. Other projects may have different procedures)

      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 @ 48.5 ¢/mile) - $19.40
      Rental car (receipt submitted) - $70.00
      Gasoline - no allowance
      Long-term parking - $9.00 (max. allowance in the Rate Chart - PDF)
      Total travel expenses = $316.40

      Plus, the per diem allowance would be computed as follows:
      Lunch - no allowance
      Dinner - no allowance
      Total per diem allowance = zero

      Explanation: the period covered by the trip would begin at 7 a.m. when the attorney left her office, and ended at 10 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 according to the Rate Chart (PDF). Finally, the use of a rental car here is reiburseable because public transportation is not otherwise readily available. The gas is not reimburseable. Counsel wisely sought input from CCAP and preauthorization from the court for this trip.

      Example 2
      A panel attorney has received project preauthorization from CCAP 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 post-1/1/07.

      At 7 p.m. after eating dinner at home, he drives the 100 miles from his home in Yolo to Redding where he has pre-booked a room at a hotel for 2 nights. The regular room rate is $104 per night, but he obtains the room at a slightly cheaper 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 one o'clock afternoon appearance, eats lunch, and then drives the 4 miles to the courthouse where he spends 3 hours at the hearing. The court continues the matter to the next afternoon to complete the hearing. The attorney drives the 4 miles back to his hotel, walks to dinner, and then settles in for the night to watch the latest Tom Hanks movie out on video, for an additional $3.50 charge on his hotel bill. His breakfast was $7.00, his lunch was $8.50, 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 the 4 miles to the courthouse where the hearing concludes after 2 more hours. The attorney drives the 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 $7.00, his lunch was $9.00, and he did not stop for dinner.

      The travel reimbursement for this example would be computed as follows:
      Own car (212 miles @ 48.5 ¢/mile) - $102.82

      Total travel expenses = $102.82

      Plus, the per diem allowance would be computed as follows:
      Hotel 1st night - no allowance
      Breakfast 1 - no allowance

      Lunch 1 - $8.50 [reflecting actual amount paid which is within max. allowance]
      Dinner 1 - $18.00 [reduced to maximum per diem allowance]
      Hotel 2nd night - $94.00 [reflecting actual amount paid]
      Video rental - no allowance

      Breakfast 2 - $6.00 [reduced to maximum per diem allowance]
      Lunch 2 - $9.00 [reflecting actual amount paid]
      Dinner 2 - no allowance because not incurred

      Total per diem allowance = $135.50

      Explanation:
      the period covered by the trip would begin at approximately 11 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 afternoon appearance; the per diem period would end at 6 p.m. the next day. A per diem allowance is based on the necessity of an overnight stay and travel periods, or from 11 a.m. on day one to 11 a.m. on day two, and an additional continuing period on day two from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. which would cover lunch and dinner (if the attorney had eaten both).

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