In 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.