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Counties Welcome Budget Funding for Low-Income Legal Defense Costs

Legal aid assists those who otherwise would not be able to afford the services of a lawyer.
Legal aid assists those who otherwise would not be able to afford the services of a lawyer.

There are a lot of differences that lawmakers are working out in the House and Senate versions of the two-year state budget. But one thing that’s in both – a lot more funding to pay for defense of very low-income defendants in county courts.

Counties paid around 55 percent of indigent defense costs. Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget included $60 million a year to reimburse them for those costs, and the House and Senate added another $35 million a year. County Commissioners Association of Ohio president Julie Ehmann of Shelby County said indigent defense is so expensive that the money doesn’t cover all costs in the first year.

“But with all conditions remaining the same, it would fully fund us in the second year. That is just fabulous, so we’re really pleased about that,” Ehmann said.

She added that indigent defenses costs were her group’s top priority in this budget, and this money would free up cash that counties can use on infrastructure and other projects.

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Karen Kasler
Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.