LIMA — To attract more attorneys for indigent defense, the Allen County commissioners on Thursday raised the hourly rates for court-appointed attorneys in Allen County Common Pleas Court for the first time since the late 1980s.
“We were hoping the increase would put us more in line with what surrounding counties are paying,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser. “Hopefully we will get more attorneys to take court appointments now. Our numbers were dwindling.”
The court appoints attorneys or public defenders to work for defendants in criminal cases when the defendant cannot afford his own attorney.
The cost of indigent defense — about $800,000 in Allen County in 2017 — is split between counties and the state roughly 50-50. But lawmakers last month agreed to increase the state’s share of indigent defense spending in the state biennial budget.
“That is assisting us in being able to do a little bit more,” said Commissioner Cory Noonan. “It’s going to cost us more on the front end but with the (state) reimbursement it could be a wash with what we’re spending.”
The commissioners have not yet decided whether they will institute a full-time public defenders’ office, another issue raised by county judges.
“We’re still collecting information,” said Noonan, who noted that the pay increase for court-appointed attorneys will help the commissioners evaluate the public defenders’ office proposal.
The Allen County Public Defenders’ office currently represents indigent defendants charged with jailable misdemeanors in Lima Municipal Court, while all other indigent defense cases, including juvenile defendants and individuals charged with felonies, are represented by court-appointed attorneys.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.