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Reps. Leland & Hillyer to testify on bipartisan bill to bolster state public defender ranks

Bill offers student loan reimbursement for young lawyers who become public defenders in underserved areas of Ohio
March 3, 2021
David Leland News

Thursday, Ranking Member David Leland (D-Columbus) and Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) will provide sponsor testimony on bipartisan legislation that would increase the number of public defenders in the most underserved areas in Ohio and make it easier to retain more experienced public defenders.

“Our Constitution guarantees the right to counsel even if a person cannot afford it, but 70 percent of Ohioans facing jail time are indigent. While no one questions the hard work and dedication of Ohio’s public defenders, they can simply be overwhelmed by this enormous caseload,” said Rep. Leland. “This is also an opportunity to keep some of the best and brightest young lawyers right here in Ohio.”

The bill would provide tuition loan assistance of up to $50,000 for 5 years of service as a public defender in qualifying underserved areas. A similar version of this legislation, House Bill 5 from the 133rd General Assembly, passed the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously, only to expire in the Senate. 

“Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’” said Rep. Leland. “This is an opportunity to stand for justice.”

The bill will receive its first hearing in the Criminal Justice Committee tomorrow (Thursday) at 11am.