Oregon Department of Justice

John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program

The John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment assistance for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors.

JRJ Program Overview

Congress enacted the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) codified at 42 U.S.C. §3797cc-21 and named for the late John Reid Justice of South Carolina, to encourage qualified attorneys to choose careers as prosecutors and public defenders and to continue in that service. The criminal justice system faces a challenge of retaining qualified prosecutors and public defenders who serve every day to ensure that our communities are protected, the rule of law is upheld, and the rights of citizenry are safeguarded. Student loan debt is consistently cited as the overwhelming reason why attorneys decline or leave positions as prosecutors and public defenders. The vast majority of law students borrow to finance their legal education.

The John R. Justice (JRJ) Grant Program provides loan repayment assistance for local, state, and federal public defenders and local and state prosecutors who commit to continued employment as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years. The JRJ Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Oregon’s Department of Justice, Crime Victims’ Services Division is Governor Kitzhaber’s designated agency responsible for administration of the JRJ Grant Program.

Funding for 2013-2014 Award Year

The federal funding for John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program has been continued*. Oregon has approximately $52,448 of JRJ funding for benefits. The grant requires equal distribution of assistance between prosecutors and public defenders.

This is an open application and all eligible applicants can apply. This is the beginning of a new grant cycle and all previous recipients of this grant must complete an application to be eligible.

APPLICATION FOR THE JRJ STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM IS NOW OPEN AND WILL CLOSE ON MAY 2, 2014.

Award Selection

Candidates for consideration will be nominated by a District Attorney (DA’s) and Executive Directors of regional (non-profit) Public Defense (PD) agencies. This will ensure geographic representation of candidates and present those prosecutors and defense attorneys who display a commitment to the field. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirement.

Allocation of program funds will be equally distributed between prosecutors and public defenders.

Benefits to individual applicants will be awarded on a formula that ranks each applicant according to the applicant’s “ability to pay” his/her student loans. Preference will be given to those applicants with the least ability to repay their loans.

NOTE: Any Loan Repayment award may result in tax implications. Please consult with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a tax advisor. The following IRS letter to U.S. DOJ is provided for informational purposes: https://www.bja.gov/Programs/IRS-JRJ-Letter.pdf.

Awardees will be able to manage their accounts through CVSD E-Grants and DOJ/CVSD Grants Staff will monitor these accounts throughout the year. Annual renewals for current beneficiaries will be handled through a reapplication process for up to three years as long as the awardees employment status still meets the requirements of the JRJ Grant Program. Priority consideration will be given to current beneficiaries.

Eligibility

To be eligible for the John R. Justice Program in Oregon:

  • Be an attorney continually licensed to practice law in Oregon.
    • Prosecutor:
      • A full-time employee of the state of Oregon or unit of local government (including tribal government) who is continually licensed to practice law and prosecutes criminal or juvenile delinquency cases at the state or unit of local government level (including supervision, education, or training of other persons prosecuting such cases). 42 U.S.C.§3797cc-21(b)(1). Prosecutors who are employees of the federal government are not eligible, or
    • Public Defender:
      • be a full-time employee of the state of Oregon or unit of local government (including tribal government) who provides legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases including supervision, education, or training of other persons providing such representation; OR
      • be a full-time employee of a nonprofit organization operating under a contract with Oregon or unit of local government who devotes substantially all of the employee’s full-time employment to providing legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile cases including supervision, education, or training of other persons providing such representation; OR
      • be employed in Oregon as a full-time federal defender attorney in a defender organization pursuant to Subsection (g) of section 3006A of Title 18, United States Code, that provides legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases; Not be in default on any federal student loans.
  • have an outstanding balance on an eligible educational loan;
  • not be in default on repayment of any federal student loans; and
  • make a commitment to a three-year service agreement each time benefits are received.
  • An eligible recipient must be a United States Citizen or an Eligible Non-Citizen licensed to practice the law.

Attorneys who are in private practice and not a full-time employee of a non-profit organization, even if individually or part of a firm that is under contract with the state of Oregon or court appointed to provide public defense services do not qualify as public defenders and are not considered to be qualified applicants.

Beneficiaries who change jobs, but remain in continual eligible employment in Oregon will remain eligible for current or renewed benefits to the same extent as those who did not change employment.

All applicants must complete an application through DOJ’s Oregon Crime Victims’ Services Division (CVSD) E-Grant system. All applicants must complete a Service Agreement and must provide documentation about the applicant’s eligible educational loan debt obligations. By signing the application, the applicant is agreeing to the requirements and provisions of the program. By signing the Service Agreement, the applicant is acknowledging the program requires a three-year service commitment, the benefit is in the form of a loan that must be repaid if the service commitment is not fulfilled, and all other stipulations as described in the Service Agreement. Sample service agreement: https://www.bja.gov/funding/jrj_service_agreement.pdf

Eligible and Ineligible Loans

a. Eligible educational loans include:

  • Federal Stafford Loans;
  • Federal Graduate PLUS Loans;
  • Federal Consolidation Loans; and
  • Federal Perkins Loans.

b. Non-eligible loans include:

  • Federal Parent PLUS Loans;
  • Federal Consolidation Loans used to repay Federal Parent PLUS Loans;
  • any eligible loans that have been paid in full; and
  • non-federal student loans.

Contact Information

For general information regarding the JRJ Program check the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance website:

https://www.bja.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?Program_ID=65

For questions regarding the JRJ grant program please contact Cathy Oliverio Relang at:

cathy.L.relang@doj.state.or.us or 503 378-4476.

*Funding for this program is subject to annual appropriation by the federal government.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2013-RJ-BX-0027 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Smart Office, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice.