CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Loan Forgiveness for Prosecutors and Public Defenders--Maybe Soon

MyShingle takes a look at debt forgiveness for public sector crim. lawyers, prosecutors and defense alike: This article from the Chicago Sun Times, Debt Relief May Be In Sight for Lawyers, reports on the status of legislation originally proposed by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) back in 2003, that would grant student loan relief to public sector lawyers in the criminal justice system.  From the article:

The average young lawyer from a private law school graduated with $78,763 in debt last year, according to the American Bar Association. The average graduate of a public law school owed $51,056. Durbin's office puts the numbers higher, with the average private law school graduate carrying $97,763 in debt, and public school graduates owing $66,810 .  According to Murray -- who had $14,000 in debt when he graduated in 1983 -- the trend is forcing lawyers to leave the state's attorney's office, and persuading third-year law students not to apply. "It definitely weighs on me. I'm going to be paying it for the rest of my life," said assistant Cook County State's Attorney Jullian Brevard, who owes about $90,000.

From MyShingle: Durbin's legislation would alleviate the burden of student loans, and help prosecutors and defenders offices attract and retain top lawyers, who often leave when "big bucks beckon" from private sector jobs (the Enron task force attorneys are a recent example of this phenomenon, most of whom fled government for private practice once their prosecutions had concluded).  The Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act would pay up to $10,000 a year of the law school loans of any prosecutor or public defender. To qualify, a lawyer would have to commit to three years of service. Loan assistance would be capped at $60,000 per lawyer and would apply only to loans made through federal programs...Many lawyers who accept prosecutor or defendants positions do so because they want the training, and are willing to make a financial sacrifice to get it.  Loan forgiveness would make this choice easier, but I don't think that an extra $10,000 per year is going to give a lawyer set on earning $145,000 a year to think about a job with the Public Defender.  By contrast, because fewer quality attorneys start their own solo practice, loan forgiviness would make a difference to those who choose to do so.

The article goes on here to ponder loan forgiveness for solo practictioners. . . [Michele Berry]

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In the past loan forgiveness has been to encourage professionals to work in areas that have been underserved or in jobs where they make sacrifice making ends-meet while serving the public. Therefore, past laws contained provisions to require the beneficiaries of aid to be low income or work in underserved communities. This new law contains no such provisions. So, for example, in Cook County, Illinois, the assistant public defenders and states attorneys are paid on average $80,000.00 which is above what the average attorney earns while there are hundreds of attorneys who apply for each available position. The law should be redrawn so money is not wasted. The law actually discourages people from applying in small towns where more government attorneys are needed because it applies to Chicago and New York as well as small cities like Effingham, Rockford, and Peroria. Laws should not be written to deal with the exceptional (or hypothetical) case--the rare case young of a young lawyer who is offered a $140,000.00 bases on his talent as criminal attorney.
Show me the facts that this is happening. The only young attorneys I know who are offered such got their job because of their country club connections--they golf with the right people, their daddy gave $40,000.00 to the local muckidy-muck politician' campaign, they when to an exclusive school, or tested well on their exams--not because they are bright and talented relative to the practice of law.

Posted by: Cookie DeMonster | Jan 6, 2009 5:30:04 AM

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