John R. Justice (JRJ) Student Loan Repayment Program

How to Use the E-Grants System 

2018 JRJ Grant Program applications are no longer being accepted.


Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Public Defenders and Prosecutors

JRJ Overview

One pressing challenge facing the criminal justice system today is the retention of those who serve every day to ensure that our communities are protected and the rule of law is upheld—including our prosecutors and public defenders. In the current economy, both prosecutor and public defender offices find it difficult to attract and retain talented attorneys. Driven by educational debt, attorneys interested in public interest law often forego opportunities to work in these offices in order to seek more lucrative private sector positions. Attorney shortages in these offices can result in overworked attorneys handling unmanageable caseloads, potentially affecting public safety, the administration of justice, and ultimately the public’s confidence in our justice system.

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 and the rising costs have imposed staggering debt. Furthermore, public defender and prosecutor salaries have failed to keep pace with the escalating cost of education. As a result, talented lawyers are often unwilling to accept attorney positions as prosecutors or public defenders, creating real challenges for those offices in their quest to hire and retain capable attorneys.

Acknowledging this challenge, Congress enacted the Act, 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 John R. Justice Program allocated its first year of funding in 2010 and provides loan repayment assistance for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years.

Oregon has approximately $34,739 (2017-RJ-BX-0031) of JRJ funding for benefits during the period of October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018. Oregon will distribute these funds in equal amounts to eligible selected prosecutors and public defenders. In FY 2016 nine prosecutors and public defenders received benefits. All of these individuals fulfilled their three year service agreement commitment and received approximately $2500 per grant cycle.

Award monies are paid directly to the lender or servicer of the loan upon execution of the service agreement required for participation in the JRJ Program. As required by the grant, the award money is intended to supplement, not substitute, the recipient’s personal student loan obligation. Awards are renewable, however all awards are subject to federal funding of the JRJ Program.

2018 JRJ Grant Program Applications are no longer being accepted.

Determine your eligibility by using the calculator before you start on an application.
2018 JRJ Eligibility Calculator (XLS) »

Application Process

  1. All applicants must complete an application » through the Oregon DOJ’s Oregon Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division (CVSSD) E-Grant system.
    • By signing the application, the applicant is agreeing to the requirements and provisions of the program.
  2. All applicants must complete a Service Agreement and must provide documentation about the applicant’s eligible educational loan debt obligations.
    • By signing the Service Agreement, the applicant acknowledges 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.
    • View sample service agreement (PDF) »

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.

Annual award amounts are contingent upon available funding. If funds are insufficient to pay all eligible applications, awards will be based on “least ability to pay.” Preference will be given to renewal applicants who continue to meet eligibility requirements. Additionally, applicants who are not already receiving benefits under another repayment program will receive priority consideration.

Note on Taxes: Any Loan Repayment award may result in tax implications. Please consult with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or a tax advisor. Read this IRS letter to U.S. DOJ, provided for informational purposes (PDF) ».

Contact Information

For general information regarding the JRJ Grant Program, visit the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance website ».

For questions regarding the program, please contact Cathy Oliverio Relang at Cathy.L.Relang@doj.state.or.us or 503 378-4476.