About the Office

"From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."
Gideon v. Wainwright
 
Created in 1976 by Chapter 120 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) is the state agency responsible for providing legal representation and other services to people accused or convicted of a crime who cannot afford to hire an attorney. The office, which is overseen by the Ohio Public Defender Commission, is divided into Administrative, Appellate Services, Policy & Outreach, and Trial Services divisions.
 
OPD provides representation on appeals and post-conviction actions in death penalty, criminal, and juvenile delinquency cases; at trial when requested by local courts and in counties that contract with OPD for trial services; and at parole revocation hearings for the more than 50,000 people in Ohio’s prisons. The agency provides technical assistance, research services, educational programs, and investigation and mitigation services to local public defenders and court-appointed counsel across Ohio. OPD also reimburses counties for a portion of the cost of running local indigent defense systems, and enforces standards established by the OPD Commission.
 
State Public Defender Tim Young and the Ohio Public Defender Commission are fully committed to improving Ohio’s indigent defense system. Working with local public defenders, courts, and county commissioners, as well as state leaders and organizations, OPD strives to change laws, rules, and practices in order to create a more effective and efficient indigent defense delivery system. The quality of justice a person receives should not be determined by that person’s financial status.
 
 

Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender

Timothy Young has been the Ohio Public Defender since January 1, 2008, after serving as a county public defender for 14 years. He has led reform efforts for indigent defense in Ohio and started the Ohio Wrongful Conviction Project, a non-DNA exoneration project. Tim is a founder and former chair of the National Association for Public Defense. He also serves as vice-chair on the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, and as a member on the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission and the Task Force on Access to Justice. Tim previously served as chair and vice chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders, and on the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, the Task Force on Funding of Ohio Courts, the Access to Justice Task Force, and the Rule 8 subcommittee. He has tried numerous cases throughout his career, ranging from misdemeanors to homicide cases. Tim received his B.A. and his J.D. from the University of Dayton. He has devoted his career to serving the indigent population of our society.


Elizabeth R. Miller, Assistant Director

Elizabeth R. Miller is the Assistant Director of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. She manages the legal, administrative, and daily operations of the agency’s Columbus office and directs the development and implementation of rules and policies for the central office and OPD’s four branch offices. She supervises and mentors the agency’s three division directors, as well as the Trial Department and branch offices, and helps oversee the more than 140 staff who provide representation on over 8,000 criminal and juvenile cases annually. She also serves as the agency’s representative on statewide commissions; meets with lawmakers, attorneys, and interested parties on legislation and policies; and develops and provides training programs for public defenders across Ohio. Elizabeth previously served as a Supervisor in the Appeals and Post-Conviction Division and as an Assistant State Public Defender in the Juvenile Division at OPD, and as Director of the Juvenile Division of the Hamilton County Public Defender Office. She is currently a member of the National Association for Public Defense, Indigent Defense Advisory Group and the Ohio Women’s Bar Association. She graduated from Miami University (Ohio) with a degree in Political Science and Russian and received her J.D. from The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law.



Administrative Division

The Administrative Division provides support services that are responsive to the agency’s needs, goals, and objectives, and accountable to the public concern. Much of the division provides the necessary services common to most state agencies, including fiscal and accounting, personnel and training, computer information systems, purchasing, fleet management, and delivery. The Administrative Division includes the Fiscal Department, the Human Resources Department, the Information Technology Department, the Library Department, and the Office Services Department.

    Sharon Flynt, Deputy Director

    Sharon Flynt is the Director of Administration for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management and a Master of Business Administration. Sharon is also a Certified Ohio Fiscal Professional. She entered public service in 2002 and has been with OPD since February 2008. At OPD, Sharon ensures that the Administrative division is operationally efficient and effective. Sharon, a passionate advocate for ensuring a successful and supportive culture at OPD, brings more than 30 years of management experience to the Agency.
 



Appellate Services Division

The primary focus of OPD’s direct legal representation is appealing death penalty, criminal, and juvenile delinquency cases. The Appellate Services Division represents clients in Ohio’s appellate courts, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and federal appellate courts, as well as in Ohio’s trial-level courts, when cases are remanded for further action. The Wrongful Conviction Project investigates and litigates claims of innocence from people incarcerated in Ohio prisons, and the Mitigation & Investigation Department provides investigatory services to OPD clients and in capital and other high-level cases across the state. Appellate Division staff also provide legal orientation to people entering Ohio prisons and juvenile facilities, and training and assistance to outside counsel. The Appellate Services Division includes the Death Penalty Department, the Juvenile Department, the Legal Department, the Mitigation & Investigation Department, and the Wrongful Conviction Project.

Jill Beeler, Deputy Director
 
Jill Beeler is the Director of Appellate Services for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. Jill earned her undergraduate degree in criminology/criminal justice from The Ohio State University and her law degree from Capital University. Jill has worked for OPD since 1998, and served as Chief Counsel of the Juvenile Department from 2008 to 2015. Along with managing the division, Jill collaborates with stakeholders on system reform, advocates on legislation, and participates on various task forces and committees. Jill began a Kids in Adult Prison working group at OPD. This working group of attorneys and investigators discusses litigation strategy and legislative reform that may impact kids who are tried as adults, sentencing issues, and juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. Jill is a member of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission Advisory Committee, and the Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice. Jill is also a certified Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) trainer.


 
Trial Services Division
 
The Trial Services Division provides representation and other services to people facing charges in Ohio’s trial courts. Branch office staff and contractors represent clients in cases ranging from misdemeanor to capital in their assigned counties, while the Trial Department represents clients across the state, specializing in capital and other high-level cases. The Trial Services Division includes the Trial Department, the Multi-County System, and the Trumbull County Branch Office.
 



Policy & Outreach Division

The Policy & Outreach Division is the agency’s public face outside of courtrooms, handling the agency’s media and social media, legislation, and administrative policy. The Division also serves as the main point of contact for county indigent defense systems and oversees reimbursement to the counties. Policy & Outreach is responsible for enforcing the Ohio Public Defender Commission’s standards and the agency’s guidelines. The Policy & Outreach Division is made up by the County Assessment and Reimbursement Department, the County Support and Training Department, the Data Analysis and Reports Department, and the Legislation, Administrative Policy, and Media Department.

    Laura Austen, Deputy Director

    Laura Austen is the Director of Policy and Outreach for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Wittenberg University, and a J.D. from Capital University Law School, where she was a Child Welfare and Adoption Law Fellow. Laura joined OPD in 2009 and has served as a law clerk, staff attorney, and supervising attorney in the Juvenile Department. At OPD, Laura is a member of the Kids in Adult Prison Working Group and the Racial Justice Initiative. Prior to entering the practice of law, Laura worked in the mental health field as a mental health worker on an acute care psychiatric unit for adults, a youth leader in a residential treatment facility for adolescents, and as a case manager for children at a community behavioral health center. She is co-author of the article, "Advocacy for Young or Expectant Parents in Foster Care," published in the American Bar Association’s Child Law Practice Journal, Vol. 28 No. 7. 



Program Administrator

The Program Administrator provides support services to the Director, Assistant Director, and Deputy Directors of OPD, and serves as the liaison to the Ohio Public Defender Commission.

    Terri Wilson

    Terri Wilson is the Program Manager for OPD’s management team and the Indigent Application Fee Program. She serves as an ELM administrator and is a member of the Ohio Public Practice Coalition on Continuing Legal Education. Terri graduated from the Academy of Court Reporting with an associate’s degree, and has attended numerous courses at Columbus State Community College. Terri has been with OPD since 1994.