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Bill to Combat Public Attorney Shortages Passes House

November 16, 2022
Brett Hudson Hillyer News

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COLUMBUS — The Ohio House of Representatives today passed legislation sponsored by State Representatives Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) and David Leland (D-Columbus) that creates the Ohio Public Defender Loan Repayment Program.

In regards to how the program would assist in minimizing public defender and prosecutor shortages, House Bill 150 would do the following:

  • Create the Ohio Public Defender State Loan Repayment Program under which the State Public Defender may repay an attorney’s student loans if the attorney agrees to be a public defender for at least three years in a public defender shortage area.
  • Establish the Public Defender Shortage Area and Public Defender Loan Repayment Funds
  • Allow an attorney to claim an income tax deduction for amounts repaid by the State Public Defender under the program
  • Appropriate $1.5 million in FY 2022 and $1.5 million in FY 2023 to support the program.
  • Create a 16-member task force to study Ohio’s indigent defense system and provide recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the delivery, structure, and funding of indigent defense.  

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing less and less young lawyers working as public defenders and prosecutors,” Hillyer said. “This bill simply offers them a strong incentive to serve the public. Public defenders and prosecutors are civil servants, and should be treated as such.”

The measure also requires the Ohio Public Defenders Commission to evaluate counties once every two years and designate a county as a public defender shortage area. Additionally, H.B. 150 establishes those eligible for the program as either law students in their final year or attorneys practicing in Ohio for eight years or less.

H.B. 150 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.