John R. Justice
Student Loan Forgiveness Program

*Applications now being accepted through January 31st, 2024*
(Form requires user to login to a Microsoft account)

Overview

The purpose of the John R. Justice (JRJ) Grant Program is to encourage qualified individuals to enter and continue employment as local and state prosecutors and local, state, or federal public defenders. For more information visit the Bureau of Justice Assistance JRJ webpage.

Eligibility

California residents who are full time prosecutors or public defenders in the State of California, and who have qualifying federal student loans may apply.

Prosecutor

Full-time employee of a state 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 local government level (including supervision, education, or training of other persons prosecuting such cases); prosecutors who are employees of the federal government are not eligible.

Public defender

An attorney who is continually licensed to practice law and is a full-time employee of a state 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.

Qualifying loans

Only federal student loans, in good standing, and in the name of the applicant, will be considered.

 

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.

Required Documentation

The following will be collected after applications are collected and participants are selected:

Applications now being accepted

 

(Form requires user to login to a Microsoft account)

Contact JRJ@CalOES.ca.gov with any questions.

Program Background

In FY 2010, pursuant to a $10 million appropriation from Congress, BJA launched the JRJ Program.

BJA has determined that a partnership with the Governors across the country and their designated state agencies is the optimal method of administering this program. State agencies have experience in administering loan repayment programs, and Governors are most familiar with the condition of the prosecutor and public defender offices in their jurisdictions and the challenges that result from attorney shortages and unmanageable caseloads. To increase the efficiency with which the JRJ Program is administered and to ensure that the program funds reach the field expeditiously, BJA will work closely with Governors and their designated state agencies to establish statewide JRJ Programs consistent with the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) as well as BJA program guidelines.

Funds will be available to states based on the total population of each state according to the latest available census data. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has calculated a minimum base allocation for each state and the District of Columbia in the amount of $100,000. This minimum base allocation will then be enhanced by an amount proportional to each state’s share of the national population. By using these funds to provide student loan repayment assistance, Governors can encourage attorneys in their states to enter or continue employment as prosecutors and public defenders, and help strengthen state justice systems.

One pressing challenge facing our criminal justice system today is the retention of those who serve everyday 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 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.

Learn more about the specific provision of the Act.

Important Notice Regarding the Taxability of Your JRJ Benefits

BJA does not provide legal advice on tax issues. The following is provided for informational purposes only. Beneficiaries of John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program benefits remain responsible for, and should consult with their tax advisors for advice on, any tax obligations resulting from benefits paid on their behalf.

Letter from the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of General Counsel, dated December 9, 2010
Letter from the Internal Revenue Service to OJP’s Office of General Counsel, received December 31, 2012