Defense of indigent agreement reached

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners recently reached an agreement with the Gallia County Defense Attorneys Corporation for the defense of Gallia’s indigent defendants after a disagreement in mid-December over compensation.

As recommended by the Gallia County Public Defender Commission, the commissioners agreed to a contract of $315,000 with the corporation for the entirety of 2018.

The Gallia County Public Defender Commission voiced concerns with a separate organization’s proposal bid and decided to accept the Gallia Defense Attorneys Corporation after the group brought its bid down to $315,000 after an initial bid of $500,000.

Commissioners have privately contracted with defense counselors for defendants who could not meet the financial obligation of paying for a defense attorney. As per rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, defendants are entitled to defense counsel, regardless of their ability to pay for it. If the county does not reach such an arrangement, the Ohio Public Defender’s Office may take over such matters.

Past Gallia Assistant Prosecutor and current GCDAC member Britt Wiseman presented the group’s concerns previously in mid-December before the commission. Wiseman cited rising crime, new stipulations and procedures in both the Gallipolis Municipal and Gallia Common Pleas Court as taking more time for attorneys to properly meet their legal obligations to provide the best defense possible for clients. Wiseman also cited workload standards in the Ohio Revised Code saying “neither a public defender nor court-appointed counsel may accept a workload that threatens to deny due process of law or constitutional rights to a client…”

GCDAC members previously cited they had hired more staff to combat rising obligation needs and that money was used to pay for the needs of liability insurance and more as GCDAC does not serve as a standard group of county employees.

Commissioners in mid-December disagreed with the initial bid price and said they would have to consider other arrangements if the bid was not brought within a range of cost similar to previous yearly contracts.

By Dean Wright