Welcome to The Briefcase

Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »

×

Assigned counsel and SB 139

Over the last couple of months, I've written a number of posts about the proposed reforms to the indigent defense system here in Cuyahoga County.  (For those of you who can't seem to get enough of my keen wit and lucid prose, click on Indigent Defense over in the bar on the right under Topics, scroll down to the post of August 8, and read up from there.)  That's not the only proposal on the subject out there, though; there's a bill in the legislature that would radically change the way indigent defense is handled in the entire state.  You can read the proposed bill here.  (No keen wit and lucid prose, trust me.)  You can read the legislative summary of the bill here.  You can read my summary, and my take on it, here.

What the bill does.  Basically, the state takes over all the payments, and the Ohio Public Defender decides how it's spent.  The OPD determines what system a county will have:  all assigned counsel, all public defender, whatever.  Without going into detail, there are some provisions of the proposal that seem to suggest that assigned counsel will be limited to cases where the public defender has a conflict, or cases where "the workload of the county public defender is of such size or complexity as to threaten the quality of representation of the client by the county public defender."  (Notably, the legislation doesn't specify who gets to make that call.  That shouldn't lead to much litigation, do you think?) 

I think uniformity is a good thing, in several respects, compensation being one of them; there's no reason why a lawyer handling a child rape case in Crawford County should get more or less than an attorney handling a child rape case in Franklin County.  And there should be some standardization of qualifications, although that needs some work, too; the present qualifications are too heavily dependent upon trial experience, and given how few cases go to trial any more, you could make a decent argument that other skills -- interpersonal skills, especially with the client, negotiating, case analysis -- are just as important to achieving the best outcome.

But there's a big difference throughout the state, even in large counties, in how an assigned counsel system would work.  In Franklin County, any court hearing that a lawyer would have -- from municipal to Supreme -- all takes place in a three-block radius.  That makes it easy to have the same lawyer represent the client from initial appearance on.  Here in Cuyahoga County you have twelve separate suburban municipal courts, and driving from one to another can take forty minutes; that kind of "vertical representation" simply isn't feasible here.

There are certain advantages to having an assigned counsel system.  It's a good way to bring young lawyers into the practice of criminal law, and it provides a broad base of quality representation.  I don't see the justification for doing away with it, and I don't see the advantage of a "one-size-fits-all" policy on indigent representation.

Search

Recent Entries

  • May 22, 2017
    Case Update
    Is SCOTUS looking for a forfeiture case? Plus, appellate decisions on expungement and restitution, plain error, and what a judge has to tell a defendant about sex registration
  • May 19, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th - Part II
    Decisions on lineups and prior calculation and design, and two out of eight (eight!) pro se defendants come up winners,
  • May 17, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th - Part I
    Taking a first look at some of the 8th District's decisions over the past two weeks
  • May 16, 2017
    Case Update
    Stock tips, Federal sentencing reform goes dormant, schoolbag searches, and the retroactivity of State v. Hand
  • May 8, 2017
    Case Update
    Death in Arkansas, a worrisome disciplinary decision, and appellate cases on speedy trial, arson registration, use of prior testimony, and the futility of post-conviction relief
  • May 2, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    Nothing but sex
  • May 1, 2017
    Case Update
    SCOTUS closes out oral argument for the Term, the Ohio Supreme Court has seven of them this week, and we report on a decision where you'll probably want to play Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" in the background while you read about it
  • April 26, 2017
    MIA
    Like Mark Twain, rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Except I am pretty sure he's actually dead, while I am not, and for that matter, nobody's spreading rumors that I am. Great lead, huh? The nice thing about...
  • April 20, 2017
    The Supreme Court takes a look at the trial tax
    And you thought this was the week you only had to worry about income taxes
  • April 18, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    Remembering Warren Zevon, and the Fourth Amendment lives