If public defenders want to get paid, they must submit their bills on time. The Scioto County Commissioners are taking a hard line because they are sick and tired of late billing costing taxpayers money.
Scioto County defendants declared indigent by the court system are eligible for a public defender. That means taxpayers foot the bill for their lawyer. Those bills can be expensive. Last year, the Ohio Bar Association passed a resolution calling for counties to raise the minimum amount paid to public defenders to $75 per hour.
Lawyers submit their legal bills to the county. The county pays the bill and then submits it to the State of Ohio for reimbursement. The County can be reimbursed for up to 85% of the legal fees. That only happens if the bills are submitted within 90 days. The county normally spends around $60,000 a month on indigent defense.
According to the commissioners, not all lawyers request to be paid in a timely fashion. According to Commissioner Bryan Davis, “We just did an acceptance of a reimbursement today that had $4,000 of funds that can’t be reimbursed.”
That’s why the commissioners have a firm, new rule in place. When a trial is over, attorneys have 90 days after the end of that month to request reimbursement. According to Davis, “We’re trying to eliminate the rejected amounts. Unless the county has requested and the state public defender has granted an extension, the state public defender will not pay the reimbursement.”
Davis said local judges make it clear to attorneys that they have 90 days after the end of the case to request their money. “If they don’t, we don’t get paid.”
They Won’t Get Paid
According to Commissioner Mike Crabtree, “In the past, what we’ve always done is that when the bills are turned in, even if they are late, we’ve paid them but the state didn’t pay us. We’re not going to pay something we’re not going to reimbursed for. If they don’t turn the bills in on time, they don’t get paid.”
Davis said the money adds up. “Last month, you’re looking at $4,000 rejected. Multiply that by 12 and you’re looking at a high number. It’s tax dollars lost. We’re just tightening it down, locking it down.”