All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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How the right to counsel is administered and structured
Branch of government: executive
The state of Ohio, for the most part, passes onto its county governments the responsibility for Sixth Amendment right to counsel services.
Ohio has a nine-member statewide indigent defense commission in its executive branch. The commission is appointed by the Governor (5 appointments – 2 each from the major political parties) and the Supreme Court (4 appointments – 2 each from the major political parties).
The commission oversees the Ohio State Public Defender (OSPD), but unlike state-level defender agencies in other jurisdictions, OSPD only provides direct representation in certain types of cases. The commission is also responsible for promulgating statewide standards, but for decades it failed to do so.
How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of local funding: 60%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
Through the Ohio State Public Defender (OSPD), the state reimburses counties for a portion of the cost of trial-level representation. As originally conceived, the state would reimburse up to 50% of the counties’ costs, with the funds made available in the next fiscal year. But state funding never reached the promised 50% level, dropping in some years to as low as 25%.
In exchange for state reimbursement, counties were intended to comply with commission standards of quality, but the commission failed for decades to promulgate any standards, meaning there was no minimum threshold of quality against which to attach the state dollars. As a result, counties have little incentive to provide constitutionally adequate services.
The methods used to provide public counsel
Trial-level services are the responsibility of the state’s 88 counties, though a county may opt to contract with the OSPD to provide these services. Only 10 counties have done so.
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by communications with the Ohio State Public Defender.