YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In Monday’s “In-Depth” segment, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford sits down with Attorney Ryan Ingram. Ingram is the president of the Mahoning County Bar Association. He’s telling us more about the Association and public defender services that are provided in Mahoning County.
“Mahoning County does not have a public defender’s office per se. The system that we have is a court-appointed system. So if someone is indigent, so if they don’t have the funds or the resources to hire their own lawyer, what would happen is they would ask the judge if they would consider appointing an attorney. The judge would typically then ask them a series of questions about their financial resources — whether they have any sort of income, whether they’re on disability, Social Security. If they find that they qualify for court-appointed counsel, they would then appoint an attorney from a list that is prepared by the Mahoning County Bar Association,” Ingram said.
So, in prior days, there was specifically an office with an attorney that served that role. We are unique in Mahoning County compared to Trumbull, Columbiana and Portage counties.
“Each of those four counties has a different system. Trumbull County is a straight-up Ohio public defender’s county, so they have a contract with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, where they contract with local lawyers who then handle certain courtrooms and they handle all of the cases in that particular courtroom. Columbiana county, they actually have a contract with a private entity, I believe it’s called the Criminal Defense League. Then Portage County has their own county public defender’s office. Mahoning County, like I said, has a court-appointed system where they’ll appoint an attorney. That particular lawyer then just handles everything. They handle all of the overhead and all of the expenses are paid out of their own office,” Ingram said.
If an individual comes into a courtroom, whether it’s civil or criminal, to the point of even being a capital case, what happens is that’s handled by the judge, who’s presiding specifically over that case, and the questions are being asked to qualify or to assure that that individual qualifies.
“What typically will happen in that scenario is you’re only entitled to court-appointed counsel if there’s a potential for incarceration. So if it’s a speeding ticket or if it’s a civil matter, you do not have the right to court-appointed counsel, only if you’re charged with an offense for which there would be potential incarceration, which in Ohio that was started, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. The judge would then ask you a series of questions about your financial resources. So whether you have a checking account, a savings account, stocks, bonds, any automobiles, any real property. Then based upon how you would answer those questions, the judge would make a determination whether, in fact, you would qualify for court-appointed counsel,” Ingram said.
How is this all funded since it’s part of a system where a variety of attorneys would be appointed to handle specific cases?
“So the way that you would be compensated if you’re appointed the case, you would represent that individual through, whether it be the initial appearance or preliminary hearing, all the free trials and potentially the trial. Then when the case is finally disposed of, what you do is you submit a fee slip, that fee slip that would first go to the judge. The judge would have to sign off on it, review your hours, review the amount and then sign off and then that would then be sent to the Mahoning County Auditor’s Office for approval. Then once they would approve it, they would then, they used to send you a check. Now they do it, it’s electronic funds transfer,” Ingram said.
On Tuesday, the conversation will continue, hopefully answering questions regarding the impact of violence in cases that come before the courts.