Mimesis Law
19 February 2017

Cross: Tim Young, Leading Ohio’s Public Defenders

January 11, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Ed. Note: Scott Greenfield and David Meyer-Lindenberg cross the State of Ohio’s Public Defender, Tim Young.

Q. You were an Air Force kid, born at Hill AFB in Utah and, like many military brats, shunted around much of the globe while growing up. You graduated high school at Ramstein AFB in Germany, just forty miles from Trump’s ancestral homeland. Do you speak any exotic languages? Did growing up abroad leave you with an exotic outlook on American criminal law? Did you long for home, or was the adventurous lifestyle the right one for you? And why’d you repatriate?

A. As a kid I didn’t know anything different. Moving from place to place is what my family did. After a year and a half or two years, there was this expectation that it was time to move on. People often ask, “how could you move all the time?” I respond with the question of “how could you stay in one place so long?” People are amazingly adaptable.

As a kid, I was adapted to moving – often. And it was great. I lived in so many places; outside of DC, in New Mexico, in Wisconsin, overseas, and so many more. My mom was a teacher. New places were an educational opportunity in her mind. We were the family that stopped at all of the historic markers and vista overlooks along the highways. When we got to a new city or sometimes, a new country, she had lists of places we needed to see and things we needed to do.

Don’t misunderstand, I did not come to appreciate any of this until later in life. I was the typical kid griping in the back seat of the car and asking how much longer till we got there. But I was also being exposed to cultures and people from all over the country. I lived in states all across this country and that was my real education – school was the same everywhere – but the people and cultures were so different.

That is what living abroad did for me, it gave me a perspective on my home from afar. When we moved to Germany, we did not live on the base but instead lived in a small village, one of only two American families in the village. Later I would understand this as my mother taking advantage of another educational opportunity. Again, this is my perspective now. At the time I was a 17-year-old kid living in Germany, a place I could legally drink. Enough said.

Q. You attended the University of Dayton in Ohio for undergrad, then stayed on for your law degree. Why Ohio? Going in, was the plan to become a lawyer? Or did someone entice you into the profession with promises of riches and glory? And what attracted you to crim law? You clearly gave your classmates the impression it was the perfect gig for you; they voted you “most likely to become a criminal defense lawyer.” Did you embrace the label or refuse to be pigeonholed?

A. I returned to Ohio to attend school. My father and stepfather both served full careers in the Air Force. There was no “home” to return to when I graduated high school in Germany. My father had retired from the Air Force and had started his second career at the University of Dayton. They had a tuition-free policy for kids of employees. That made the college choice pretty easy. There was no grand plan. Just get a degree.

Grad school was always an option. I was probably a junior in college when I really started to consider law school seriously. At that point, I was a philosophy major so grad school had become a concrete plan. As much as I enjoyed philosophy and defended it as my choice of major, even I knew it should just be renamed “the going to grad school major.”

As I entered law school, I knew I wanted to be a litigator but nothing much more specific than that. As I took classes, I was largely defining areas I never wanted to practice. After contracts, I realized I was never going to do anything with the UCC. And tax law was an easy no. I really enjoyed environmental law, but upon graduation the only interview I got remotely related to environmental law was with Ashland Oil Company. Given I became a public defender, I don’t imagine it is hard to see what a bad fit that would have been, defending an oil company. I would have lost my license.

But by the end of third year, my classmates knew what I was supposed to do, voting me most likely to be a criminal defense attorney. In a classically predictable way for a future public defender, I had to be contrary, and it took me two more years before I accepted what others knew about me.

Q. After you graduated in ‘92, you signed on as an associate with Ruppert, Bronson, Chicarelli, & Smith in Franklin, Ohio, where you primarily handled civil cases. What could’ve induced you to give away your criminal-justice birthright? Did they promise you a spectacular mess of potage? Were you at all doubtful about a career in criminal defense, given that it can be a poorly paid, stressful and low-status job?

You spent two years at RBC&S, during which time you also handled the odd criminal case. That takes us to the obligatory first trial question. What was the case about? Who’d you go up against? Going in, did you believe you were adequately prepared? Were you right?

A. I started with RBC&S because I had clerked for them and they were a really great small firm doing plaintiff’s work. And, like many people, I was blind to what I should have seen much earlier. I was still narrowing down my plans for what kind of lawyer I was going to become. It was a general practice firm ranging in practice areas from family law, wills and estates, medical malpractice to criminal defense. But most importantly, they were really great people. I had friends who despised the firms and people where they worked. I had a huge benefit in that after two years of work, I really liked the people I worked with. I just hated most of the work. Bless the lawyers who handle divorce cases, but I wanted to go back to bartending before I took another family law case.

But before I got to the moment that I was going to become a client if I had to do another divorce case, I had also done two years of appointment work in public defense cases. One of the things about Ohio is that not all counties have public defender offices. RBC&S was in one of those counties. All public defense cases were handled by appointed counsel and the firm had committed to having all of the lawyers on those lists. But the reality of firm practice is that the partners, while on the list, rarely handled the cases when appointed. They gave them to the lowest associate – me.

And that was my first jury trial. It was an appointed case. I had been a lawyer for just about a year and I was about to handle a felony jury trial. The case involved a guy charged with burglary. He and his ex-girlfriend had children together and he was probably not getting over her as much as he should have. She, however, was over him and had moved on.

One morning, the kids call him and tell him that they are hungry and mom is not there. He goes and finds her at her new boyfriend’s apartment and barges in demanding she get up and get home to take care of the kids. He won’t leave until she gets up and comes outside to go home. The cops are called and, miracle of miracles, actually refuse to arrest to him. I remember getting the case file with the police report and thinking this is a mistake – I’ll call the prosecutor and get this cleared up – plea to a trespass (a low level misdemeanor in Ohio). But the prosecutor had already indicted for burglary and refused to budge. Ohio has one of those statutes where trespassing in an occupied dwelling is a burglary without anything more. No other act is required, just trespass in a house. My client was technically guilty, but the case seemed so damn wrong.

I was woefully unprepared. There was really little investigation to be done. The police reports and witness statements were clear. There was little dispute about what happened; versions differed a little and blame was allocated differently in each version, but the three versions all matched up at the important points. The unpreparedness was simply my inexperience. I had never tried a case. I did not know crap about proper cross. My objections were tentative and hesitant. But there were two good things in the client’s favor. Most people reacted like I did when asked about the charges, that this seemed wrong. And I had a judge who was going to give the trespass charge as a lesser included offense.

I stumbled and stammered through the day. The jury went out. I had always heard that quick verdicts are bad for defendants. The jury was back in 20 minutes. Not guilty of burglary, guilty of trespass. We would have pled to that months before, and the client was released with time served. I had tried my first criminal case.

Q. You resigned your gig in Franklin in ’94 to join the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office, headquartered in Dayton. Here at Fault Lines, we’ve interviewed former PDs who were desperate to leave the profession and move on to things as unlikely as comedy, citing overwork, the lack of money and the misery of representing unappreciative defendants in the trenches as reasons to leave the life behind. Others, however, seem drawn to it.

What made you want to swim upstream? Why’d you trade it in for one of the most demanding and responsible jobs a lawyer can do? And when you arrived at the PD’s office, how difficult was it for someone used to private practice to adjust? Did you find you had fewer resources at your disposal? Was there less leeway to choose how best to represent your clients? Conversely, did the PD’s office come with a bigger storehouse of knowledge to draw upon? Were you mentored, or thrown in the deep end and left to swim?

A. I came to the realization of what I wanted to do while on a long drive home after taking my younger brother to college. Between my own appointed cases and those I handled for partners at RBC&S, about a third of my work was appointed counsel work. And those were the cases I enjoyed. As corny as it sounds, I got into law to help people. And despite my Con Law professor’s best efforts at beating the majesty of the bill of rights out of me, I was (and still am) completely awestruck by the founders and their foresight to create these fundamental rights. Today, a big sign hangs outside of my office, it is a quote from John Adams: “it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished…”

I had come to loathe much of my other work and it showed in the quality of work I was doing. And with this clarity, I resigned the day I returned from the trip with my brother and applied to the public defender office in Dayton, Ohio. I did not have a job with the public defender office yet, but I knew that was what I was meant to do.

I was hired a couple of weeks later and was doing what I loved. But I was drowning. The caseloads were and remain far too high. At first, trying to juggle 15 files for a morning call in a misdemeanor court was almost too much. Learning to focus on what was in front of me was really hard when I had so many other cases that needed something done. And the knowledge gap was huge — what was a lesser of what, when did the government have to prove a gun was operable, what are the elements of every criminal charge in the code? I was drowning.

But six months later, most of that was second-hand knowledge. Every day there had been another PD I could go to and ask another annoying question. Every day I could copy someone’s organizational system for juggling so many cases. And for the first time since I became a lawyer I could focus on the people in front of me and help them.

Q. By 1994, violent and property crime rates in Ohio were already falling from their peak in ’90. But had anyone noticed? The nation was in the grip of panic about crime, fed by “superpredator” rhetoric, kneejerk federal and state legislation and the impulse to ramp up the drug war to deal with the crack cocaine epidemic.

What was it like for Ohio public defenders in the mid-‘90s? Were you insulated from the madness, or was Montgomery County as hard-hit as any other? Was funding remotely adequate? Were enough public defenders being hired to deal with the influx of indigent clients? Was the kind of grotesquely excessive caseload PDs across the country are expected to shoulder today common back then? And what were your bosses at the Montgomery County PD doing in response?

A. Montgomery County PD remains a place of which I have very fond memories. It was where I became a trial lawyer and then a manager and office leader. But Montgomery County was like everywhere else. Caseloads exploded. There were 100,000 new police on the streets across the country, we doubled down on the failed war on drugs, and tough on crime was and is the hue and cry of too many policy makers.

But Montgomery County was far better prepared to deal with some of it. Years before caseloads exploded, a jurist, Carl Kessler, had the amazing capacity to bring unlikely groups together, and he essentially overhauled the county justice system and put in place a systemwide case management plan. This plan includes open discovery available upon indictment, a very coordinated scheduling of dockets, and active participation from all the players in the case.

The court also instituted a mentoring system for new judges, and this helped bring a consistency to sentencing within the court with variations being far less than seen elsewhere throughout the state. Having these kinds of systems in place helped absorb some of the extensive caseload growth. But at some point, the money stops keeping up. The caseloads creep up, the budget lines for experts remain flat even though there are more cases, the amount of money dedicated to training declines. Budgets continued to increase but at a slower pace than caseloads. I had too many cases. We all did.

But I was never pressured to not try cases or file motions. In fact, just the opposite. I never had an expert request denied when I needed it. I also never once in the 14 years that I worked there, saw a lawyer take a verdict alone. The Montgomery County PD office had 40 lawyers and there were regular jury trials across the office. Regardless of when a jury came in, I cannot think of one time that other PD colleagues had not remained to be there with the lawyer and client when a jury returned. The dedication of my colleagues is what keeps me going every day.

Q. It didn’t take you long to make it into a leadership position. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Ohio appointed you to the state Public Defender Commission, where you and your fellow commissioners were responsible for overseeing the Office of the Ohio Public Defender – which you now run – and allocating money to PD’s offices throughout the state.

Was the lege generous enough with the money it set aside for public defense, or were Ohio’s elected officials like those in most U.S. counties and states in that they’re reluctant to fund a service that, though mandated by the Constitution, doesn’t win them a lot of love from voters? How independent was, and is, OPD’s funding? How’d you divvy up the money? And should Ohio, which has its fair share of counties without trial PD services, be doing more to expand access?

A. The undeniable reality is that public defense is woefully underfunded in Ohio. Ohio is a “home rule” state. Local delivery and control of governmental services is the model. Ohio divides its public defense funding between the state and counties. Originally, this split was to be 50/50, but the state has underfunded the appropriation to meet 50%, going as low as 25% in 2008. This places a burden on the counties, and with a larger share, the counties are even more reluctant to increase the budget dedicated to public defense.

OPD’s operating budget is drastically underfunded. From FY 2000–2015, OPD’s operating budget grew only 7.7%, or half a percentage point per year. The Consumer Price Index during this same period increased 37%. Caseloads, workloads, and the prison population have all grown dramatically. But OPD has lost nearly a third of its staff.

A decade ago, the Ohio Supreme Court created a group to examine indigent defense in Ohio. The Task Force that issued the 2006 Report and Recommendations on Pro Se & Indigent Litigants found that:

Funding dedicated to indigent criminal defense in Ohio … totals $128.8 million in fiscal year 2007. The task force believes, based on its understanding of the needs of the system, that $148.7 million is a more appropriate figure.

Despite consistent growth in the size of Ohio’s criminal justice system, the total funding dedicated to indigent defense remains below that recommended figure, ten years later.

Building a high-quality indigent defense system will cost Ohio substantially more than it currently spends on the system, but other areas of the criminal justice system will realize cost savings as a result of improved defense services. Local jail populations and costs will stabilize or decrease, as defense attorneys identify alternative placements or monitoring systems for clients awaiting trial, and as cases are processed more quickly and efficiently. Ohio’s prison system will benefit, as more sentences will be legally sound and appropriate, and as more clients are diverted to appropriate community alternatives. And Ohio’s courts will realize efficiencies and savings, as defense attorneys are more prepared to proceed with cases, better able to represent their clients, and less likely to commit constitutional errors that result in legal appeals.

A high-quality indigent defense system increases public safety by ensuring the right people are in prison, serving the right sentences. Well-trained, adequately supported defense counsel are also the most likely obstacle between an innocent Ohioan and a wrongful conviction.

Q. In 2008, you took over as state public defender after fourteen years in Montgomery County. Now that you had your hands on the tiller, what were some of the first reforms you wanted to undertake? Was the transition from lawyer in the trenches to high-profile administrator a smooth one? Had anything in your career prepared you for the responsibility of overseeing a large staff? What about the responsibility of ensuring access to quality representation for so many Ohioans? Did you ever think to yourself, “I wish I were still in the well?”

A. I don’t know of anything that prepares you for a job like this. I joked with people for the first six months: don’t tell me anything new after 2:00 p.m. as my brain was full for the day, already overloaded with all the new information I could possibly digest.

But a few things were obvious. The first was giving the juvenile section the same status as the adult divisions within the office. I believe public defense does a distinct disservice to children and the justice system when we use juvenile court as a training ground for lawyers – when we treat it as ‘kiddie court’. These are children, they deserve our best. So, when I got to OPD, my first ‘official act’ was to restructure the office so the juvenile section was not a subset of another department but instead a department of its own, on the same footing and stature as the other departments within the office.

The second major effort I knew I wanted to undertake was to try and bring the public defense system together. Being a home rule state, each county office is independent. For years in Montgomery County, both as a lawyer and as a manager, whenever I was trying to solve a problem I always thought to myself that someone in Ohio must have addressed this problem before. But there was no coordination of information flow between county PD offices. Each was an island without much contact with other PD offices across the state. And the state office, OPD, had something of an ivory tower reputation. It was viewed as insular and not necessarily as a resource for those working in public defense across Ohio.

This outreach project is continuous to this day and into the future. During my first year I started by getting in the car and driving to every county PD office in the state. I wanted to meet everyone and make sure they knew that OPD was here to help. This is a project that continues to this day. OPD has staff going somewhere across the state every day. We hold annual conferences for all of the county PDs. Our website is driven by user needs. We host a caselaw handbook, a motion bank, immigration guides, a collateral consequences database, and numerous other resources.

Finally, OPD now has a Policy and Outreach division. One of the main purposes of this division is to coordinate with and assist county PD offices and appointed counsel throughout the state. Public defenders by their nature are non-conformists. We are not joiners. We reject authority. But, we are stronger together. We can be better lawyers when we share our work, when we coordinate our efforts, and when we speak with a unified voice for our clients and for the resources we need to help them.

Q. One of your signature achievements as Ohio Public Defender was the creation of the Wrongful Convictions Project, which, since 2009, has sought to free innocent Ohioans languishing in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Where’d the impetus come from? The project was initially funded through a donation from the Moritz College of Law, paid for by TV reporter Erin Moriarty, who’s put out a great deal of coverage of wrongful convictions. How’d you get that grant?

DoJ subsequently signed on and agreed to provide additional funding, allowing you to expand WCP and hire more people. It’s not easy to get the feds to open their purse strings for so eminently worthy a cause. How’d you do it?

Since its inception, WCP has made use of law students to review prisoners’ claims of innocence. These days, it’s trendy to complain about the flakiness and unreliability of young soon-to-be lawyers. Is that true of the kind of law student attracted to helping out the public defender?

And finally, how many prisoners has the WCP freed in its seven years of existence? Is the project high-profile enough? Does the average Ohioan know about the good work you’re doing?

A. I want to answer these questions, but I also have a distinct desire to answer a broader question about the people who do this work. So, let me try to do both and answer the question and also use it as a jumping off point.

As a public defender for 14 years in courtrooms, nothing scared me more than an innocent client. It was terrifying to think of someone locked up in a cell for something they did not do and making sure I stopped it from happening. And DNA testing had revealed how flawed so many of the other “forensic sciences” are, and the unreliability of other evidence we rely upon to convict people and take their freedom. But DNA exonerations meant there had to be hundreds and thousands of more cases that had the same faulty science or unreliable evidence. When I became state public defender, Ohio already had the Ohio Innocence Project, a DNA-based exoneration group that is doing tremendous work, headed up by Mark Godsey and housed at the University of Cincinnati.

I also had the privilege of representing two individuals who were exonerated. (State v. Aldridge) Along with three other lawyers, we represented two clients who had been convicted of molesting a group of children in an apartment complex in a twisted and sordid tale that was unbelievable on its face years later. But right after the McMartin preschool case, everyone was looking for these kinds of cases and was determined to find them, evidence be damned. It was one of those cases that you remember forever, but the highlight was the state had fought us on discovery. In Ohio, discovery is discretionary in post-conviction actions. We had won the right to an evidentiary hearing, but the state had won the discovery battle – they thought. We already had volumes of Brady violation material we had obtained through public records over the years.

So we are in the hearing and there has been no exchange of anything, not even witness lists. Somehow, we had gotten Dr. Richard Ofshe as an expert in our case. Dr. Ofshe is a nationally-known leading scholar on false memories and coerced interrogations. This leads to this classic courtroom moment when Dr. Ofshe is called to the stand, the state does not know who he is and does not even have his CV. He is asked about his qualifications and awards. As he relates that he has won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the lead prosecutor leans over and whispers a bit too loudly to her subordinate, “Oh crap, you take him.” Both clients were ultimately freed and remain out today.

With that background, the Wrongful Conviction Project was a no-brainer, as was the fact we needed to expand the types of cases we looked at – to the non-DNA side of the house.

As to how we got it funded and our students, I cannot say enough about the people involved. Erin Moriarty and Moritz School of Law have been the backbone of funding. We awarded Ms. Moriarty our Defender of Justice award in recognition of her commitment to the project. DOJ started guiding more grant money towards innocence projects, and we got turned down the first time we asked. It was our second effort that was rewarded.

And the law students are the only way the project could ever be successful. Our experience has been the exact opposite of the way the question is phrased – the students we have involved in the project make it function. We could not collect the relevant case documents, review the requests, and review the files without the students. Our staff lawyer assigned to the project, Joanna Sanchez, was hired directly from Moritz as part of the project.

And this is where I want to jump off and speak a little more broadly than the question asked. Public defense is about the people. It has been fun to answer these questions, but it also makes me a little uncomfortable in that I am only as good as the people I work with. People are drawn to this work. I think there are one or two career public defenders per law school class – people who do the work because it is a calling. They come to PD offices with a shared belief system in fundamental freedoms and individual liberties. They come to help those who need it the most. They come to try and rebuild lives. That is not to say that others do not share these beliefs, there are many. But PDs feel a need to do this work.

My job, as a leader, is to make sure we hire those who have this devotion to the mission and want to be career public defenders and then do everything in my power to lobby for the tools, systems, and policy changes that will allow them to do their jobs at a very high level. So, it is about them. Yes, there is great pride in our Wrongful Conviction Project, but it is the people who make it great – our project director, Joe Bodenhamer and his team. Our Juvenile Department was recognized nationally by the National Juvenile Defender Center. It is due to the people who do the work – they are amazing.

Our Legal Department has been involved in huge victories, ultimately winning the first constitutional challenge to Adam Walsh legislation. Our Death Penalty division has been involved with more clemency success than anywhere else in the nation and Ohio is ground zero for lethal injection litigation. This is true across OPD – whatever goes well, whatever recognition I have is really and truly only because of the work being done by the lawyers, investigators, mitigators, IT staff, administrators, and all of our support staff. If I thought there was a prayer it would not be edited out, I would list each and every one of the amazing employees here at OPD because they deserve the recognition!

Q. Is Ohio doing enough to fulfill Gideon’s promise? Funding is one major problem, but funding by itself isn’t enough. Strickland v. Washington established that the accused have the right to an effective lawyer, but set the bar so low as to be satisfied by breathing and the occasional “huh?” As such, it’s possible to pay lip service to an indigent defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by giving him, not a lawyer capable of effectively and zealously representing him, but a warm body to prop up in the courtroom.

What can the state public defender do to ensure the lawyers entrusted with the poor are not just well-funded, but appropriately trained and ethically up to snuff? For that matter, what should the lege be doing?

You’ve been a major proponent of reform in this regard, including on the national level – you even met with former AG Eric Holder to discuss the issue. Could the feds be doing more? Should they be? Are national initiatives to hold indigent defense to high standards the answer, or is this a problem that defies a uniform fix?

A. Frankly, with the exception of a handful of places in this nation, no state or local government is doing enough with regards to funding. Even with a lack of funding there are still things that can and should be done. And it is public defense leaders who must seek change. No one is going to fix this broken system for us.

As noted in the question, Strickland’s second prong essentially reduces the quality of the lawyer to a lump of flesh in many cases. We support this crazy fiction that if the evidence of guilt is overwhelming it does not really matter how badly your lawyer performed – drunk, sleeping, who cares. But isn’t the corollary also true, crappy lawyering makes the evidence look overwhelming? We have a system of review that presently values economy over fundamental fairness. Because that is what Strickland really holds, you are not entitled to a fair trial or an effective lawyer if you are ‘really’ guilty. We should do better. Think how differently the system would function if the second prong of Strickland did not exist. Everyone would be incentivized to make sure the client got a fair trial – not a perfect trial, but a fundamentally fair trial where competent counsel was involved.

As a state public defender, there are still steps towards improving the quality of the system that can be taken regardless of holdings like Strickland.

First, we have invested heavily in training. We sponsor seats at numerous CLEs around the state. We partner with the National Defender Training Project to put on a trial school every June and we fully fund 40 attendees. If I could, I would double or even triple the training budget.

Second, we have undertaken the building of a case/client management system. This system will provide one platform for public defense professionals across the state to enter data and records about the cases they handle. This will be provided free of charge to county PD offices and court appointed counsel. Ultimately, we will collect a very detailed set of data about public defense in Ohio. We will be able to make much more effective arguments about the need for reform, and we can be much more detailed about the degree and location of problems.

Third, the Ohio Public Defender Commission has recently passed a full set of comprehensive administrative code rules governing the qualifications of counsel and the necessary resources for a county public defender office or a not for profit organization.

While these will not solve the problems of inadequate funding, we will ultimately raise the bar for performance, have a much better understanding of how clients are being represented across the state, and reduce the number of cases that need resources dedicated to fixing what we should have gotten right the first time the client was represented.

Q. You ended 2016 with an amazing array of decisions out of the Ohio Supreme Court, including a declaration that mandatory bindover for kids is unconstitutional; that a term of years that exceeds life expectancy for a child is unconstitutional; and a new standard that makes police records and other governmental records available as public records upon conclusion of the trial. Not too shabby. Where do you go from here? What about the death penalty? What are the big issues you hope to slay in 2017? And what happens to Tim Young next? Is there a robe in your future? Or maybe you miss the good old days of crossing a cop and watching his eyes well up with tears?

A. As a PD, you dream about the two weeks we had at the end of term in 2016 from the Ohio Supreme Court. There were a plethora of a groundbreaking decisions released.

All 7 members of the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that a statute that limited DNA testing in death penalty cases is unconstitutional. The Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the statute and the State offered the following purpose: Ensuring that the final judgments of its courts are expeditiously enforced. The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed:

“Are we to take this to mean that expeditious enforcement of the death penalty is the guiding factor and goal? Are we to value speed over certainty? Of all cases that cry out for certainty, it is cases that result in the extinguishing of a human life. If, however, the generic expeditious enforcement is the basis of the state’s argument, even a cursory investigation reveals that this rationale is faulty. See State ex rel. Nyitray v. Indus. Comm., 2 Ohio St.3d 173, 176, 443 N.E.2d 962 (1983). Indeed, expedience is subverted by the statutory scheme.”

In State v. Moore, the court held that “pursuant to Graham, a term-of-years prison sentence that exceeds a [juvenile] defendant’s life expectancy violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution when it is imposed on a juvenile nonhomicide offender.”

In State v. Aalim, the court held that mandatory bindovers of juveniles violate the Ohio Constitution. It is difficult to describe the scope of this win and how many children’s lives will benefit from it.

Finally, the Court handed down a case that completely opened up public records requests for post-conviction litigation. Today, in Ohio, the police files become public record upon completion of the trial.

Whatever else I may have thought of 2016, it ended well – it is impossible for me to be prouder of all of the staff at OPD, what this kind of work says about each and every one of them. These decisions are the result of huge team efforts that include every department and support from every part of the agency.

As to my future, OPD just finished celebrating 40 years of service. My goal, if they will have me, is to be here when the agency turns 50 and then retire. I have my dream job. I am not looking to go anywhere. I never pictured myself in a robe. And while I desperately miss trying cases, I love my job today. I am a career public defender and I am deeply proud of that. If I can finish my career at OPD and then teach a little as an adjunct professor I will be happy, for I will have spent the vast majority of my career helping people in need, people without resources, people without a political voice, people without a home. But how we treat people is the measure of the strength of our community. How we treat those in poverty, those who have the least, that is the measure of our community.

And this is what I hope the legacy of our work is at OPD – we helped people. We helped offices improve, we helped lawyers with problems, and most importantly, we helped clients.

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