Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do employees of Public Defender Service (PDS) in the District of Columbia qualify as “public defenders” as that term is defined under the John R. Justice statute (42 U.S.C. 3797cc-21(2)?

The statute defines "public defender" to mean an attorney who:

  1. is continually licensed to practice law; and
  2. is:
    1. a full-time employee of a state or unit of local 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);
    2. a full-time employee of a nonprofit organization operating under a contract with a state 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 delinquency cases (including supervision, education, or training of other persons providing such representation); or
    3. employed as a full-time federal defender attorney in a defender organization established pursuant to subsection (g) of section 3006A of Title 18 who provides legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases. (Emphasis added).

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, of which the John R. Justice statute is an amendment, defines (in relevant part) “unit of local government” at 42 U.S.C. 3791(a)(3)(D) to mean "for the purposes of assistance eligibility, any agency of the government of the District of Columbia or the Federal Government that performs law enforcement functions in and for—(i) the District of Columbia. . . .” Therefore, for purposes of the John R. Justice Loan Repayment Program (JRJLRP), as an entity providing a law enforcement function in the District of Columbia (public criminal defense legal services), PDS should be considered a “unit of local government,” and otherwise eligible employees of PDS should be considered for eligibility as beneficiaries if they are full-time employees of PDS who also provide “legal representation to indigent persons in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases (including supervision, education, or training of other persons providing such representation)."

As of 4/3/2018

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