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Resolution Joining OSBA to Increase Appointed Counsel Fees

Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Supports Increases to Reimbursement Rates for Court-Appointed Defense Counsel

- Kate Pruchnicki

Throughout calendar year 2019, there has been significant movement toward increasing reimbursement rates for counsel appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants across the State of Ohio. The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL) is in full support of increased reimbursement rates for indigent defense costs and is pleased to see the progress being made on this issue.

On July 24, 2019, the Ohio Public Defender Commission and the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) released a memo to the County Public Defender Directors, County Commissioners, various court administrators, Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), and the OACDL summarizing certain legislative changes relative to indigent defense costs in the State of Ohio.

Specifically, previous Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly allocated additional state budget funds to reimburse counties for indigent defense costs: an additional $59,020,000 for fiscal year 2020, and $95,000,000 for fiscal year 2021. The increase in funds recognized the need for renewed dedication and support of indigent defendants’ constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel.  Increased funding will improve the overall availability, advocacy, and quality of court-appointed criminal defense attorneys in the State of Ohio.  

The current law limits the OPD from reimbursing counties at any rate higher than 50 percent. The increased fund allocations, however, are estimated to permit the OPD to reimburse counties for approximately 70 percent of indigent defense costs for fiscal year 2020, and potentially 90 percent for fiscal year 2021. The changes will take effect beginning October 16, 2019.

Additionally, in January of 2019, the OPD issued an updated state fee schedule setting an in-court and out-of-court rate of $75 per hour for all non-capital cases. This fee schedule can be found and viewed using this link.

The OSBA and OACDL both support and encourage counties to adopt the fee schedule as outlined by the OPD. In the fall of 2019, both organizations issued a resolution in support of increased reimbursement rates and appointed-counsel rates of pay. The OACDL resolution may be viewed on the OACDL website.

The OACDL is proud to be among the organizations in support of increased reimbursement and hourly rates of pay, and is thrilled to see such strong statewide commitment to offering quality defense to indigent defendants in the State of Ohio.  However, the improvement in indigent defense is not yet complete. 

Each county must now update its schedule of fees, and some counties have not updates their fee schedules for over 20 years.  Before updating the fee schedule, the county commissioners must request that the local bar association submit a proposed fee schedule.  The OACDL urges all local bar associations to adopt a resolution, like those passed by the OACDL and OSBA, and submit proposed fee schedules to their commissioners with the hourly rates and case caps recommended by the Ohio Public Defender in January, 2019.

Resolution Court Appointed Fees

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