Friday, January 28, 2011

State Rep. Combs Introduces Legislation to Help the City of Fairfield with Indigent Defense

COLUMBUS – State Representative Courtney Combs (R- Hamilton) today introduced House Bill 49, legislation that would allow municipal courts that do not have a public defender assigned to their court and those that do not seek reimbursement from the Indigent Defense Fund to compensate court appointed attorneys. The court would retain the court fees assessed for indigent defense rather than pay those fees into the State Indigent Defense Fund.

“Unfortunately for courts that do not use the public defender system the defendants and the city are in turn paying for another courts defense fund,” Combs said. “My legislation would correct this problem and help struggling cities save money during these tight times.”
Currently indigent defendants in these courts are paying into the State Indigent Defense Fund and are not receiving any benefit. The city then ends up having to reimburse the court for indigent defense.
This issue was brought to Rep. Combs’ attention by Judge Joyce Campbell of the Fairfield Municipal Court whose court does not have a public defender. In 2010 alone her court sent over $120,000 to the Indigent Defense Fund.
“The Ohio Public Defenders Office provides excellent representation to those communities they serve however, for those courts, such as mine, that do not utilize their services it is fundamentally unfair to require the poorest of the poor to pay fees for services they do not receive,” said Judge Campbell. “This legislation will rectify this situation and provide relief to the government entity actually paying for the court appointed attorneys representing indigent defendants in municipal and county courts of Ohio.”
The bill will be referred to a committee next week for further discussion.