Costs and Fines: For two years the Law Office of the Public Defender has been litigating the lawful method courts may use to collect costs and fines from the indigent. Many courts were failing to give credit against the assessed fines for days spent in jail leading to a never ending cycle of increasing costs and fines and repetitive arrests, perhaps over nothing more serious than jaywalking. This was all at a tremendous cost to the taxpayers and very little was collected compared to the amount spent using the jail as a monetary collection tool. Many courts were also holding people in direct contempt of court for failing to pay fines or costs, essentially imposing jail for an inability to pay. The Ohio legislature has forbidden these practices for years under O.R.C. 2947.14. After nine successful appeals by this office, some courts are now terminating many of the illegal warrants that exist.
Jail Overcrowding: The Jail, after undergoing a renovation to add new beds, is once again overcrowded. Is crime getting worse? No. FBI statistics have indicated dropping crime rates here and throughout the country. Rather than to continue to build new beds, the justice system needs to look at who is in jail and why. When one examines the jail population there are two large groups that are discernible. Those that are in jail for non-violent, non-theft offenses - administrative offenses - make up the first group. Driving without a license, for example. They did not drive poorly or illegally or cause anyone any harm, they simply do not have a driver's license because they could not afford insurance. Surely there are more effective ways of addressing this problem than taking someone's freedom - it was an administrative violation, let the administrative agency choose a remedy. The second group is composed of those inmates who are simply waiting. Much of going to court is waiting for court. Waiting for an entry. Waiting for transport. This time spent waiting should be shortened and handled efficiently as possible. Termination entries should be issued in the courtroom. Jail time credit should be calculated at the time of sentencing. No one should ever be held in jail without an 'out date' or a 'next court date', too many people are waiting for a hearing that has not even been scheduled - just arrested and waiting.
Office Achievements: Each year in celebration of Law Day, May 1st, the Dayton Bar Association presents awards to deserving lawyers who merit special recognition as determined by Judges of each court division. This year, 2013, Michael E. Deffet of our office received Outstanding Lawyer of the Year from the Montgomery County Juvenile Court. Mike is seen here accepting his award. In 2011, Kay Locke of our office received Outstanding Lawyer of the Year from the Domestic Relations Division.
Also on May 1, 2013, our Director, D.K. Rudy Wehner, accepted on behalf of the entire office the Appointed Counsel Award from the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, General Division, for special recognition for our service and contribution. The award was presented by Judge Michael L. Tucker.
Long time Assistant Public Defender Chuck Grove has been published. He wrote the lead article for the recent edition of the University of Dayton Law Review on the new versions of Criminal Rule 16 and discovery in criminal cases in Ohio. You can find his article in Volume 36, Number 2 of that publication.
The office has also been recognized on several occasions in the past 2 years by Volunteers Lawyers Project for outstanding pro bono work.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." Frederick Douglass