State, Local Trial Courts Now Eligible for JAG Funding from DOJ

White House provides renewed guidance about use of Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the White House recently provided some renewed guidance regarding the use of Byrne-Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) funding for the current FY2021 grant cycle (Oct. 1, 2020 – Sep. 30, 2021) that they have brought to the attention of state court leaders as recently reported by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (TX), president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and State Court Administrator Laurie Dudgeon (KY), president of the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA).

The amended language in the grant guidelines specifies state and local trial courts are eligible for these funds and also emphasizes the importance of meeting the challenges facing trial courts today. This is significant recognition of efforts that CCJ and COSCA have made in expanding state court eligibility within existing federal grant programs. The time for trial court leaders to work with their respective supreme courts and state court administration offices to request Byrne JAG funding is now. Chief Justice Hecht and Ms. Dudgeon noted that National Center for State Court (NCSC) staff are available for technical assistance through Laura Klaversma or (303) 308-4301.

Byrne JAG Funds

Applications for the Justice Department’s FY21 $276 million Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program are open now. Byrne JAG provides critical support to State and territory, local, and Tribal governments across a range of program areas, including crime prevention and education, law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, technology improvement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and planning and evaluation. Community violence intervention programs are eligible uses of the funding, too.

In soliciting grant applications for this program, the Department has emphasized the importance of addressing the backlog of cases created when courts at every level were forced to cancel or scale back proceedings due to COVID-19. It has made clear that funds could be used, for example, to purchase technology that would facilitate virtual outreach and appearances, to enhance case management systems, to build tools to support diversion and alternatives to incarceration as part of the review of backlogged cases, or to retrofit courthouses to mitigate risks to staff.