Gideon Fellowship Program

The Gideon Fellowship Program is the the Office of the State Public Defender's primary means of hiring entry-level attorneys.  Each year, two Gideon Fellows are selected to serve a two-year term appointment in one of our public defender offices.  The fellowship begins in September after the fellows receives notification they passed the Iowa bar exam.  Fellows will serve alongside career public defenders representing clients, trying cases, and participating in training and mentoring through the State Public Defender's New Attorney Development Program. Fellows are eligible to apply for permanent public defender positions during the term of their fellowship and it is hoped that successful fellows will continue their careers long-term in Iowa with the Office of the State Public Defender.   

Eligibility and Qualifications

Third-year law students and current state or federal judicial law clerks are eligible to apply to the Gideon Fellowship Program.  We are seeking new attorneys who are passionate about providing competent and zealous representation for their clients in criminal and juvenile proceedings. While many cases resolve through plea negotiations or other noncontested proceedings, we expect public defenders to be trial attorneys, capable and eager to try a case to the court or a jury.  Prior criminal courtroom experience, through law school clinics, public defender or prosecution internships, or mock trial are preferred.  A Gideon Fellow must be licensed to practice law in Iowa prior to beginning employment with the Office of the State Public Defender.  Any offer of employment to a person not yet admitted to practice in Iowa will be subject to the person being admitted to practice prior to the commencement of the fellowship.

Application and Selection Process

 Applicants for the 2019-2021 Gideon Fellowships must apply through the State of Iowa's hiring website.


Location of the 2019-2021 Fellowships

The Office of the State Public Defender will be hiring for Gideon Fellows to being working in the following two offices after passing the Iowa bar exam:

  • Council Bluffs Office
  • Mason City Office 


Compensation and Benefits

Gideon Fellows are covered by the collective bargaining agreement between the State and AFSCME.  A fellow will be hired at Pay Grade 29, which currently has a starting salary of $54,745.60.  

Benefits include:

  • Health, Dental, and Long-term Disability, and Life Insurance
  • Paid vacation (two weeks annually), sick leave, and eleven holidays
  • Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS) and voluntary deferred compensation programs

More information is available from the Department of Administrative Services Employee and Retiree Benefits Site, including the 2021 Benefits at a Glance guide for AFSCME-covered employees.

Additional information about the salary for other permanent SPD attorney positions is available on the Legal Careers page.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Applicants with student loan debt may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which can provide further substantial financial benefit to a position with the Office of the State Public Defender.  The Office of the State Public Defender is qualified public service employment under the program.  Thus, eligible employees with the appropriate type of student loans and sufficient financial hardship who make ten years of qualifying monthly payments in the appropriate repayment plan may have all their remaining student loan forgiven.  More information is available from the U.S. Department of Education and Equal Justice Works.

Background on the Gideon Fellowship Program

The Gideon Fellowship Program was established by House File 2132, which was signed into law by Governor Terry E. Branstad on April 3, 2014.  The program was proposed by the State Public Defender to provide a new method of recruiting and hiring entry-level attorneys competitively with other legal employers.  The program is named in honor of Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right to counsel at state expense in criminal cases more than 50 years ago. 

Clarence Earl Gideon