Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $79,240)
PROBLEM: The average student loan debt incurred by law students is $100,000 - $150,000, with higher amounts not being uncommon. The salaries that can be paid to new prosecutors and public defenders make it very difficult for young lawyers to meet such a debt burden and still enjoy even a modest home and standard of living. Accordingly, young lawyers whose preference would be to work as public defenders or prosecutors are often forced by financial restraints to seek employment in the higher paying private sector. This frequently results in lawyers leaving prosecution and defender offices at about the time the attorney has enough training and experience to be of real value to the office.
GOALS/OBJECTIVES: (1) To be able to provide law school loan repayment assistance to the widest number of prosecutors and public defenders in accordance with grant guidelines. (2) Ensure all eligible prosecutors and public defenders are aware of this benefit and submit applications. (3) Through the awarding of grant funds, help to keep prosecutors and public defenders employed in the public sector.
PROJECT STRATEGY: Using John R Justice funds, payments will be made by UPC directly to the financial institutions holding student loans that are owed by Utah public defenders and prosecutors, thereby reducing the outstanding balance and, hopefully, the monthly payment.
SIGNIFICANT PARTNERSHIPS: In addition to all prosecutor offices, the Utah Prosecution Council works with the three public defender offices in the state to ensure that all eligible public defenders are aware of this program. Two prosecutors and two public defenders sit on the application review committee. We also work closely with the State Board of Education. One of their senior officials also sits on the application review committee.
OUTCOMES/MAJOR DELIVERABLES: The following events facts have, and have had, a direct impact on this program in Utah. (1) The amount of award Utah received has remained in the low
$30,000 range. (2) There are only two state public defender and one federal public defender offices in the state. (3) There are 29 county attorney offices, at least 15 cities that have dedicated prosecutors and the Office of the Utah Attorney General. (4) Because substantially more prosecutors apply than public defenders, a sizeable number of prosecutors get a very small award, or none at all. Consequently, the mere possibility of receiving a small award provides no incentive to remain employed or reapply the following year. Finally, with private law firms able to pay higher salaries, prosecutor have left government practice and it is increasingly difficult to hire and retain new prosecutors.
Number of Prosecutors 225 492
Number of Public Defenders 100 97
Number of Federal Defenders 14 17