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Government & Politics

Counties Welcome Budget Funding for Low-Income Legal Defense Costs

A photo of the entrance to the Summit County Courthouse.
Summity County Courthouse

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.