At a Glance (as of 2013)
Percentage of state funding: 40%
Percentage of local funding: 60%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive
Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services
The state of Ohio, for the most part, passes onto its county governments the responsibility for funding and administering the provision of Sixth Amendment right to counsel services. Ohio has a nine-member statewide indigent defense commission overseeing an executive branch state public defender agency. 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). However, unlike statewide defender agencies in other jurisdictions, the Ohio State Public Defender (OSPD) provides direct representation in only certain case types statewide. OSPD’s Legal Division, it’s largest team, handles non-death adult appeals and post-conviction cases.
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).
OSPD reimburses counties a portion of the cost of trial-level representation. The commission is responsible for promulgating standards, and the office responsible for disbursing state funds to counties meeting those standards. If counties complied with state-promulgated standards of quality, as originally conceived, the state would reimburse up to 50% of the county’s costs 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%. At the same time, for decades, the state commission failed to promulgate any standards whatsoever, 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.
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by communications with the Ohio State Public Defender.