Ohio Judge Reversed After Denying Public Defender To Adult Because His Parents Could Pay For Lawyer

grimIn Ohio, Athens County Municipal Judge William A. Grim has been reversed in his denial of the right to appointed counsel to a young man accused of interfering with police. While Kelly Kasler, 22, is an adult and her parents declined to pay for a lawyer, Grim refused counsel to her because she was being supported in college by her parents. It was a clearly wrong decision and the concerns over Grim’s judgment were magnified in a case where a citizen is accused of interfering with police.

Kasler was charged with obstructing official business and resisting arrest. She told Grim that her parents would not pay for a lawyer and she had no funds for a lawyer. Grim noted that her parents paid for her tuition and housing and list her as a dependent on their taxes and carry her on their health insurance. By considering their $100,000 household income, he found that she was disqualified from getting a public defender.

The problem is that such support is discretionary. Since the parents are under no obligation to give her money, their income cannot be viewed as her own.

Ironically, on his Democratic candidacy for the court, Grim promised “to bring balanced experience to the bench . . . [and] believes that each person is deserving of attention and respect.” While I understand the judge’s concern, I cannot understand his belief that he can attribute income to the defendant that the defendant does not control. Such an approach of attributed income could be used to deny counsel in a myriad of cases. It is particularly worrisome in a case of alleged interference with police. We has seen this type of charge abused in many cases where citizens film police in public or object to the mistreatment of arrested individuals.

Source: Dispatch

33 thoughts on “Ohio Judge Reversed After Denying Public Defender To Adult Because His Parents Could Pay For Lawyer”

  1. We do probably need a corrections page, one that is mercilessly limited to corrections and starts fresh every year. Just sayn’.

  2. Friedbrownball, Is that true? How could that be? I would think that such requirements would quickly fall on appeal. That is amazing.

    I am always surprised, looking back, that there was a time when no public defenders were provided and no Miranda warnings were given. Rights you can’t access as a matter of course are rights you don’t have. There seems to be a lot of roadblocks being thrown up to limit access to our various rights.

  3. In the supposedly liberal state of Massachusetts, it is allowed for a judge to withhold counsel in these circumstances, or if the defendant lives with someone. It is common with some of our enlightened despots – I mean, judges – to deny counsel if the defendant lives with anyone, with the rebuttal left to the defendant to show they cannot pay. And remember, that defendant, usually in jail, has been denied counsel, so he doesn’t have a lawyer to help him show that others cannot or will not pay. So what Turley describes here as a shocking act by this judge is the law in Massachusetts.

  4. Gene,

    The explanation offered in your post at 2:53pm was most helpful. Thanks for taking the time.

  5. Bron,

    Yep. Powell is also a seminal case on the matter that is taught as a matter of due course on the subject of right to counsel. However, I think the use of the word “expansion” is deceptive and does not indicate how jurisprudence and stare decisis works in application. I realize that wasn’t your word choice, but let me explain . . . or elaborate. A subsequent case that explains a vague or previously unaddressed point of law isn’t an expansion but an elaboration that refines the understanding of the law as written. Just as often these elaborations operate as contractions, narrowing the understanding of applicability of a particular law. That is the value of using common law practices such as case law. “Expansion” implies an ultra vires assumption of power or rights not due under law.

    An example of an expansion of powers or rights beyond the scope of the law as written would be Bush/Cheney’s orders of torture or Obama’s assertion that the President has the right to kill American citizens without due process. Or in a court case example, this instant case. The judge went beyond his discretion and abused his power by denying counsel.

  6. I also found this:

    “Powell v. Alabama .–The expansion began in Powell v. Alabama, 193 in which the Court set aside the convictions of eight black youths sentenced to death in a hastily carried-out trial without benefit of counsel. Due process, Justice Sutherland said for the Court, always requires the observance of certain fundamental personal rights associated with a hearing, and ”the right to the aid of counsel is of this fundamental character.” This observation was about the right to retain counsel of one’s choice and at one’s expense, and included an eloquent statement of the necessity of counsel. ”The right to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crimes, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense, even though he have a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.” 194

    The failure to afford the defendants an opportunity to retain counsel violated due process, but the Court acknowledged that as indigents the youths could not have retained counsel. Therefore, the Court concluded, under the circumstances–”the ignorance and illiteracy of the defendants, their youth, the circumstances of public hostility, the imprisonment and the close surveillance of the defendants by the military forces, the fact that their friends and families were all in other states and communication with them necessarily difficult, and above all that they stood in deadly peril of their lives”–”the necessity of counsel was so vital and imperative that the failure of the trial court to make an effective appointment of counsel was likewise a denial of due process within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The holding was narrow. ”[I]n a capital case, where the defendant is unable to employ counsel, and is incapable adequately of making his own defense because of ignorance, feeble mindedness, illiteracy, or the like, it is the duty of the court, whether requested or not, to assign counsel for him as a necessary requisite of due process of law . . . .” 195″

    Which goes to Gene’s 14th amendment argument.

  7. OS and Gene,
    I would recommend the book to Bron as well. Gideon’s Trumpet.
    Get a life.

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