Bargain Brand Justice: Ohio's Indigent Defense Funding Model Makes Justice Inaccessible and Undermines the Sixth Amendment
Ebony D Davenport
In 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel shall not be denied to anyone due to their ability to pay in Gideon v. Wainright. The right to adequate legal representation is a noble one that sets this nation apart from other areas of the world. However, without the proper infrastructure, this right becomes less revolutionary and more decorative. When public defender offices are not properly funded, the most vulnerable among us are denied a fundamental right; justice becomes an experience exclusive to the elite; and the adversarial system is won not by the best advocate, but by the depth of her resources. The county-by-county funding model employed by the state of Ohio has the potential for causing disparities among counties because public defender offices are funded based on property tax revenue. This approach to funding creates a piecemeal system in which one’s access to justice depends largely on which county he is arrested. When the burden is shifted to the counties, they struggle to provide for public service like waste management, libraries, and schools. This strain on funding creates a Hunger Games-like situation wherein various public services compete for extra crumbs. Because Ohio’s current funding model for indigent defense prevents residents from equal access to justice, thus depriving them of a fundamental right to counsel, a new funding source that is independent from the general fund will allow for (1) counties to be fully staffed, (2) proper expert witnesses that can potentially strengthen a client’s defense, (3) reduce excessive caseloads which undermine quality representation, and (4) ensure that Gideon’s promise is upheld.
John P. Feldmeier
Primary Advisor's Department
School of Law
Stander Symposium project
"Bargain Brand Justice: Ohio's Indigent Defense Funding Model Makes Justice Inaccessible and Undermines the Sixth Amendment" (2018). Stander Symposium Projects. 1125.