DOJ Looking for Free Legal Aid
By Colin Ross | July 18, 2011 12:11 pm

The Justice Department is continuing  to use a novel way to get around its current hiring freeze.

U.S. Attorney offices around the country continue to offer the position of Special Assistant United States Attorney to applicants. Why is this position so special? Because it comes without a salary.

The DOJ has been in a hiring freeze since January, and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman told the New Jersey Law Journal that the unpaid prosecutor positions are a good way to get around that.

The DOJ’s attorney vacancy web page currently lists 21 such positions open, and, other than the word “uncompensated” in the job title, there appears there will little difference in actual job duties. Some of the unpaid jobs are listed for the broader responsibilities of General Crimes units, but a few are more specific.

One unpaid attorney position in the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s office, for example, even offers a position investigating and prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in the Financial Fraud and Public Corruption Unit, an area U.S. Attorney David Fein has identified as a priority for the district.

And volunteer prosecutors may be hear to stay.

“We do expect this program to continue beyond the hiring freeze,” Fein said in an email through his spokesman. “In fact, we listed our first two unpaid SAUSA positions (one in the area of child exploitation and the other in the area of firearms offenses) prior to the institution of the hiring freeze.”

Most of the unpaid positions ask for no particular experience other than having a J.D. degree and being a member of the bar, but one disqualifying factor for applicants is payment from law firms. The potential volunteer-prosecutors cannot receive payment from a law firm during their unpaid time, as no DOJ employee can make money from non-department law practice while employed there. The volunteers may have made a future commitment to join a firm and still join the DOJ.

The positions are short –term, with most carrying a term of just one year.

The DOJ’s attorney vacancy page warns applicants of the financial pressures facing the DOJ.

“Please note that due to temporary funding restrictions we may not be able to fill all positions as currently advertised,” the page says.

That is not a warning applicants for the volunteer positions will have to worry about.

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