One of the great freedoms in America is the right to legal representation, and every year, the city of Portsmouth extends its Indigent Defense Agreement with Scioto County, and Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen is in the process of going to Portsmouth City Council to pass another ordinance that would provide the city’s share of the funding.
Allen said the City Solicitor’s Office was waiting on Scioto County to send over the request to extend the agreement and at the same time, Scioto County was waiting on the city of Portsmouth to send legislation to them extending it for another year.
In the process, the county informed the city that the legislation has to be sent to the Scioto County Auditor by the end of January. So when it comes before City Council, it will most likely be passed as an item that requires suspending the rules that all legislation must be read on three separate occasions.
“It’s the contribution towards paying fees for people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer in criminal cases when there’s potential jail time,” City Solicitor John Haas said. “We contribute, the county contributes, and I think the state contributes as well.”
The fund provides the fees to the defense attorneys that are hired to represent people who can’t afford to hire their own lawyers.
“Every year we do the same thing,” Haas said. “Every year we basically pass the same thing.”
Allen said the city recognizes its responsibilities under the laws of the state of Ohio and of the United States of America to provide legal counsel to indigent persons charged with city ordinances and Ohio Revised Code violations in the Portsmouth Municipal Court for offenses involving a potential loss of liberty.
The Board of Scioto County Commissioners and the city of Portsmouth signed an agreement to provide representation to indigents charged in the Portsmouth Municipal Court on Nov. 22, 2011. In accordance with Ohio Administrative Code Section 120-1-09(B) the term of the agreement was for one year beginning Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012 and may be renewed for additional one year terms.
According to Section 120: The state public defender shall investigate the financial status of each person to be represented, at the earliest time the circumstances permit, and may require the person represented to disclose the records of public or private income sources and property, otherwise confidential, which may be of aid in determining indigence. The state public defender may obtain information from any public record contained in any office of the state, or any political subdivision or agency thereof, on request without payment of any fees ordinarily required by law. He shall make the results of the investigation available to the court upon request. The court, before whom a person seeking representation is taken, may determine the person’s eligibility for legal representation by the state public defender.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.